Thursday, 21 August 2008

End of Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

With the last post we have finished our translation of the Gnostic Chapters of St Diadochos of Photiki. At some point we will probably review our translation and repost it. We will probably also have a series of posts that discuss just what the text is saying. It is a very important text in the history of Orthodox asceticism. If anyone has a problem with the meaning of the textif it is unclear or obscurewe would invite them to post a comment so that we can fix the problem. Best wishes to all who read it.

—Orthodox Monk

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 96 - 100

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

Those who are friends of the pleasures of this world come to the actual missteps from the thoughts[1]. For borne by an undiscerning judgement they desire to bring almost all their impassioned conceptions[2] to lawless words and unholy works. Those however who are endeavouring to accomplish the ascetic way of life come from the actual missteps to the evil thoughts and to certain evil and damaging words. For if the demons see such persons gladly tolerating abuse [of others] or speaking certain idle or unseasonable things or laughing as it should not be or angered immoderately or desiring to see empty and vain glory, then they arm themselves in a group against them. Moreover, taking ambition as an excuse for their own evil they jump as it were through a certain dark window and plunder the soul. Therefore it is necessary that those who wish to dwell together with the multitude of virtues not seek glory, nor meet with many people, nor make use of continual departures [from the monastery] or abuse certain persons (even if those who are abused are worthy of the abuse), nor speak much even if they are able to say all things well. For dispersing the mind without measure, garrulity not only makes the mind idle in relation to its spiritual labour but also delivers it to the demon of accidie[3], which weakening it without measure delivers it thenceforth to the demons of sorrow and to the demons of anger. The mind must therefore ever be occupied with the keeping of the holy commandments and with the deep remembrance of the Lord of Glory. For he says: ‘He who keeps the commandment will not know an evil word;’ that is, will not deviate into bad thoughts or words.
When the heart receives the bows and arrows of the demons with a certain warm pain in such a way that it suspects that he who is at war[4] bears real arrows, the soul hates the passions with pain, as being in the beginning of being purified. For if it should not suffer great pain on account of the impudence of sin it would not rejoice richly over the goodness of righteousness. Therefore let he who wants to purify his heart set it on fire with the memory of the Lord Jesus, having only this as a meditation and ceaseless work. For those who volunteer to put off their own rot must not pray[5] at one time and at another time not pray, but ever occupy themselves with the prayer[6] in the keeping of the mind, even if they should have their abode somewhere outside the houses of prayer. In the way that someone who wishes to purify gold, again makes hard the material being purified even if for only a short time he lets the fire go out under the crucible—in that same way he who at one time remembers God and at another time does not, loses though the idleness whatever he thinks to acquire by the prayer[7]. It is characteristic of the man who loves virtue ever to consume what is earthy in his heart by means of the memory of God so that the bad is thus expended bit by bit by the fire of the memory of the Good and the soul come back completely to its natural brightness, with greater glory.
Dispassion is not the state of not being warred against by the demons, since we would then need to have gone out of the world, according to the Apostle, but the state in which those who are warred against remain not warred against.[8] For the warriors who wear armour have arrows shot at them by their opponents and hear the sound of the archery—and they also see almost all the arrows sent against them—yet they are not wounded because of the hardness of the armour. Being fenced by iron they have the quality of not being warred against when they are in battle; let us, however, armed fully by means of all good works with the panoply of the Holy Light and the helmet of salvation, cut through the dark phalanxes of the demons. For purity is not brought about merely by stopping to do bad things, but by setting aside evil in power by attending assiduously to the good.
When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, two demons remain behind to fight. The first of these annoys the soul so that it come from much love of God to an unseasonable zeal so as not to want any one else to please God in the way that it does; the second annoys the body, moving it with a certain burning activity to the desire for intercourse. This happens to the body because, first, this pleasure is a property of nature as on account of child-bearing and for that reason easily defeated; and, further, also on account of the permission of God. For when the Lord sees one of the strugglers flourishing in the multitude of virtues, he on occasion permits him to be sullied by this demon so that he suppose himself to be worse than all the men who lead a secular life. Doubtless, annoyance by this passion either follows the attainments or, on occasion, comes before them so that in the sudden attack of the passion the soul in anticipation seem somewhat useless, whatever its great accomplishments might [come to] be. But let us battle the first passion in great humility and love, and the second passion in temperance and freedom from wrath and the deep conception[9] of death, so that, tasting from these things ceaselessly the activity of the Holy Spirit, we come in the Lord to be above these very passions.
As many of us become participants in divine gnosis will render an account of even our involuntary vain imaginings. For Job says: ‘You have taken note even if I have transgressed in something involuntarily;’—and justly so. For if one were not to cease to remember God and not to neglect his holy commandments, he would not fall into either a voluntary or an involuntary fault. It is therefore necessary to offer firm confession to the Master even in connection with our involuntary faults, that is, in connection with the labour of the customary canon[10] (for there is no one who is a man who has not miss-stepped humanly), up to the time that in tears of love our conscience assure us spiritually concerning the remission of these things. He says: ‘For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so that he forgive our sins and purify us from every injustice.’ It is necessary to attend unceasingly to the spiritual perception of confession so that our conscience certainly not taste itself in the condition of supposing that it has confessed adequately to God, for the judgement of God is mightier than our conscience even if someone in complete spiritual assurance should know of nothing in himself[11], as the wisest Paul teaches us, saying: ‘But I do not interrogate myself; for I know of nothing in myself; but I have not been justified in that; the Lord is he who interrogates me.’[12] For if we do not confess properly concerning these things then at the time of our departure we will find a certain secret cowardice in ourselves. We who love the Lord must pray to be found without fear in that hour for he who is then found in fear will not pass by the Tartarian rulers in a free way, for they have that fear of the soul as a lawyer, as it were, on behalf of their own evil. But in the hour of dissolution the soul which exults in the love of God is borne with the angels above all the dark ranks. It is given wings as it were by the spiritual love, bearing love without lack as the fullness of the Law. Wherefore even in the Second Coming of the Lord those who depart from this life with such boldness will be taken up in rapture with all the saints. But those who are a little cowardly in the time of death will be left behind with the multitude of other men as being under judgement, so that having been tried by the fire of judgement they receive in accordance to their own practices the inheritance owed to them from our good God and King Jesus Christ; for he is the God of Justice and his is the wealth over us who love him of the goodness of his Kingdom to the Ages of Ages. Amen.
Ascetic homilies of Saint Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Illyria. 100 Chapters, 2,300 lines.[13]

[1] Greek: logismon.
[2] Greek: ennoias.
[3] I.e. sloth.
[4] I.e. the ascetic. He is in such pain that he begins to suspect that he is being shot at with real arrows.
[5] Greek: euchesthai. This refers to the Jesus Prayer, as should be evident from the context.
[6] Greek: proseuche.
[7] Greek: euche.
[8] Thus the text. The author means that dispassion is a state in which the demons try and try and try—and don’t get anywhere.
[9] Greek: ennoia. Here ennoia means ‘meditation’ or ‘contemplation’ within the mind: a deep consideration of our coming death.
[10] Greek: kanonos. This is the customary rule of private prayer and asceticism of the monk.
[11] I.e. be conscious of no fault in himself, as further on in the quotation from St Paul.
[12] Note the legal language. The conscience is treated with legal concepts both in the text and in St Paul.
[13] This is the closing note in the manuscript. Illyria is present day Albania, somewhat north of Photiki.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 91 - 95

  Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

One of those who love the Lord with a certain insatiable judgement[1] narrated to me as follows: ‘To me who desired to know it with knowledge,[2] the Good One provided the love of God in much [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance[3]; and I was so much clothed with such an activity[4] that my soul hasted with a certain unspeakable joy and love to go out from the body and depart towards the Lord, and to ignore as it were this very temporal way of life.’ Even if he who in experience <tastes>[5] this love should be insulted or injured by someone a myriad of times (for it happens that he is yet going to have one of these sorts of things to work on with labour) he does not grow wrathful with him but remains as if glued even to the soul of him who has despised or even injured him. He is kindled only against those who come either against the poor or against God (as Scripture says, ‘They speak evil ;’) or who otherwise lead to a certain extent an evil way of life. For he who henceforward loves God beyond himself—or, rather, no longer loves himself but only God—no longer avenges his own honour but wants only the righteousness to be honoured of him who has honoured him in eternal honour.[6] He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but on account of the great experience of divine love henceforth has this disposition as a habit as it were. It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the action of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, in his heart in spiritual perception holding on through the great love to him who is honoured in faith.[7] The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: ‘Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.’ For he who is in the wealth of love, as I said, holding on to God, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.[8]
The intermediate state of divine love prepares us to be not a little sorrowed when because of some quarrel we make someone our enemy by insulting him. Wherefore they[9] never cease to prick our conscience until through much rendering of accounts we lead the one who was insulted back to his previous disposition. Even when one of the people leading a worldly life has unjustly grown wroth with us, the most extreme compunction concerning this matter makes us meditate and take much thought since we have wholly become a stumbling block to someone of this age[10]. Whence the mind even becomes idle in regard to contemplation[11]. For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations[12] unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us. If, then, that person does not want this to happen or, again, has departed from our paths, the word of gnosis thenceforth hastes us to add the character of his face to our own soul in a certain unformed humour[13],[14] thus in disposition to fulfil the law of love in the depth of the heart. For he says:[15] ‘Those who wish to have the gnosis of God must in their own intellect look upon, without choleric conception, even the faces of those who are choleric out of season.’ This having come to pass, the mind is not only faultlessly set into motion as regards theology but will also ascend to the love of God with great boldness of spirit[16], hastening unimpededly from the second step to the first.[17]
To those who are beginning to desire piety ardently the way of virtue seems extremely rough and very gloomy not because it is that sort of thing but because directly from the womb human nature consorts with the range of the pleasures. To those who are able to come to middle of it, the way is shown to be wholly approachable and comfortable, for having been subordinated through the activity[18] of the good, the bad is destroyed by the good habit along with the memory of the irrational passions.[19] Whence, thenceforth the soul gladly passes through the all the paths of the virtues. For this reason, the Lord, introducing us to the road of salvations, says: ‘How narrow and strait is the road leading to the Kingdom and few are they that enter in by it.’ To those who with much intention wish to come forth to the keeping of his holy commandments, he says: ‘For my yoke is good and my load is light.’ Therefore, in the beginning of the struggle it is necessary to work the holy commandments of God with a certain violent act of the will, so that seeing our purpose and effort the good Lord send us a certain act of the will very much ready to serve his glorious wishes.[20] For then: ‘The will[21] is prepared by the Lord;’ so that we unceasingly work the good in a certain great joy. For then, really, we will perceive that: ‘God is he who acts in us both to want and to act beyond expectation.’
In the same way that wax that has not been heated or softened for a long time is not able to accept the seal which has been placed on it, thus neither is a man, unless he be tried by [ascetic] labours and infirmities[22], able to find place for the seal of divine virtue.[23] For this reason the Lord says to the divine Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in infirmity[24].’ And the Apostle himself boasts, saying: ‘Therefore I would rather boast gladly of my infirmities so that the power of Christ dwell upon me.’ And in Proverbs it has been written: ‘The Lord chastises him who he loves; he whips every son whom he receives.’ And the Apostle calls ‘infirmities’ the rebellions of the enemies of the Cross which continually happened to him and to all the saints of that day so that they not be puffed up, as he himself says, at the abundance of revelations—but they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt. But now we call ‘infirmities’ the evil thoughts and the bodily anomalies. For, then, because the bodies of the saints who were struggling against sin were delivered up to deadly tortures and various other afflictions, their bodies were much higher than the passions which have entered into human nature out of sin. Now, however, because the peace of the Churches[25] is multiplied on account of the Lord, it is necessary on account of this that the body of the strugglers of piety be tried by means of continual anomalies, and their soul by means of wicked thoughts—and certainly among those in whom gnosis is active in every [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance—so that they both be able to be beyond every vainglory, or vain imagining even, and by means of the great lowliness be able to find space in their hearts, as I said, for the seal of the beauty of God, according to the saint who said: ‘For the light of your Face has been stamped upon us, O Lord.’ Therefore, giving thanks, we must await the counsel of the Lord.[26] For the continuality of the sicknesses and the battle against the demonic thoughts will be reckoned for us to the account of a second martyrdom. For he who at that time said to the holy martyrs by means of those lawless rulers, ‘Deny Christ; long for the glories of this present life!’ even now stands against them in person unceasingly saying the very same things. He who at that time pained the bodies of the righteous and insulted to the utmost the teachers of honour through those ministering to those diabolical habits of thought—that very same one even now leads the various passions against the confessors of piety with many insults and acts of contempt, and certainly when for the sake of the glory of the Lord they help the poor who are extremely afflicted. For that reason it is necessary to work with sureness and patience on the martyrdom of our conscience before the Lord. For he says: ‘Waiting patiently, I patiently awaited the Lord and he took heed to me.’
Humility is a hard thing to procure. For in the measure of its greatness, that much it is attained with many struggles. It comes to those who participate in holy gnosis in two ways: First, when he is in the intermediate stage of spiritual experience, then either on account of infirmity of the body, or on account of those who show enmity to those who take care for what is right, or on account of evil thoughts, the struggler of piety has a somewhat lowlier habit of thought. Second, when the mind is illuminated in much [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance by Divine Grace, then the soul has humility as it were as a natural attribute. For fattened by the divine goodness, it is no longer able to be puffed up by the pretension of ambition and, even if it unceasingly works the commandments of God, it considers itself lower than all men on account of the fellowship of the divine forbearance. The first humility most often has sorrow and discouragement; the second, joy with an all-wise respect for others. Wherefore, as I said, the first humility comes to those who are in the middle of the struggles but the second is sent down to those who are approaching perfection. On account of this, the first is often reproached by the successes of this life,[27] while the second neither perceives in any way the terrible arrows of sin nor is shaken even if someone were to offer it all the Kingdoms of the world—for being wholly spiritual it completely ignores bodily glories. To come into the second humility it is in every respect necessary that the [ascetic] struggler come by means of the first. For unless Grace by means of the first humility first softens our free will in the application of the pedagogic passions—voluntarily and not by necessity[28]—it will not grant us the splendour of the second humility.

[1] Greek: gnome. As we remarked previously, this word has to do with judgement leading to intention. In part it means the ‘intellectual attitude’ or ‘opinion’ on the basis of which one acts.
[2] Greek: gnostos gnonai. Thus the text. The author is emphasizing the desire to know consciously the love of the Lord.
[3] Greek: plerophoria.
[4] Greek: energeia, as elsewhere in this and other chapters.
[5] ‘<Tastes (geuomenos)>’. Reading this on the basis of context and the author’s style instead of the text ‘becoming (genomenos)’.
[6] Thus the text.
[7] The author means that this condition of the experience of divine love unites the ascetic to God in the ascetic’s heart so that for the duration of the experience of being united to God he is beyond faith.
[8] Greek: potho. Here, this seems to mean affective ecstasy. The chapter is describing an advanced stage of mystic union. This chapter is difficult to render so that it reads easily and clearly but we have wanted to tamper as little as possible with such an important description of mystical union.
[9] The text does not have a referent for this verb. Perhaps it is the demons.
[10] I.e. the world.
[11] Greek: theorias.
[12] Greek: theoremata.
[13] Greek: chumati. This is one of the four humours, but as applied to the soul, not a matter of ‘humour’ as jokes or ‘humour’ as disposition.
[14] The text is a little difficult here. What the author means is that if we cannot be reconciled with the other party then, even if we are not at fault at all, we should introduce his face into our soul in a certain vague way so as to have it before us in love when we are praying. This does not seem to be a prescription to engage in visualization exercises but rather to keep the ‘idea’ of the person in our heart.
[15] This is not a passage of Scripture, nor do any of the other editors or translators provide a citation. We are not aware of any work containing this passage.
[16] ‘Boldness of spirit’: parrisia. This is the good boldness before God.
[17] I.e. from the intermediate degree of love being discussed in this chapter to the first degree of love discussed in the previous chapter and elsewhere.
[18] Greek: energeia. It should be remarked that energeia is a philosophical concept having to do with the metaphysical nature of action. It doesn’t have the moral contextualization that we might suppose. That is, when the author writes that that something happens through the activity or energeia of the good, he doesn’t mean that it happens because we go to Church on time and so on and so forth—not that we shouldn’t—but that metaphysically something has an ontological activity—here, the good, including good practices—that has an effect, in the way we speak today in a different metaphysics, of cause and effect. Energeia is an ontological not a moral concept. It means the action of something being what it is essentially; the concept is of course related to entelechia. Entelechia is what something is when it’s what it’s supposed to be: it is the perfection of the instantiation of an essence. Energeia is what something does, above all, when it is in its entelechia.
[19] The author means that for those who have attained to the middle of the way of virtue, it is shown to be accessible and comfortable because the bad—which the author has already remarked does not exist substantially—is destroyed by the good habit (here he uses the word ‘custom’) together with the memory of the pleasures of procreation.
[20] Greek: thelemasi. This is the same word that we have been translating ‘acts of the will’. The author is fond of this sort of repetition of a word and its cognates.
[21] Greek: thelesis. The author does not use the language of ‘faculties’, which is a much later Western approach, but thelesis is the will as a faculty and thelema something willed by the thelesis.
[22] Greek: astheneion.
[23] Elder Paisios (1924 – 1974) is said to have remarked that he received more spiritual benefit from his illnesses than from his (considerable) ascetic labours.
[24] Greek: astheneia.
[25] Greek: ekklesion.
[26] I.e. in our afflictions.
[27] The author means that an ascetic in the middle of the ascetic struggles is often damaged in his corresponding degree of humility when he chances to have some worldly success—say by publishing a book on spirituality.
[28] This seems to mean that it is not merely a matter of long-suffering: the ascetic must accept his sufferings.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 86 - 90

  Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post

The Lord himself says that Satan has fallen like lightning from Heaven, so that the disfigured one not even gaze on the habitations of the holy angels. How, therefore, is he able, he who has not been found worthy of the fellowship of the good servants, to have the human mind a common home with God? Let them say nothing more. For the pedagogic surrender[1] in no way deprives the soul of divine light. Grace only hides for the most part, as I have already said, its own presence from the mind, so that it propel, as it were, the soul into the bitterness of the demons, with the goal that, knowing a little of the evil of the demons, with all fear and great humility it seek out the very help from God—in the same way that a mother, seeing her own infant act disorderly in regard to the established customs of breastfeeding, thrusts it away from her embrace for a little, so that terrified by certain repulsive persons standing there or by any beast whatsoever, with great fear and tears it go back to the motherly bosom. On the other hand, the surrender according to aversion[2] hands the soul that does not want to have God over to the demons like a prisoner. We are not bastards[3], however—may it not be so!—but we believe that we are genuine children of the Grace of God, breast-fed by it with small surrenders and dense consolations, so that by means of its goodness we attain to come into the measure of stature.[4]
The pedagogic surrender brings much sorrow and humbleness and moderate despair to the soul, so that the part of it which is ambitious and liable to fall come appropriately into humility. It immediately brings to the heart the fear of God and tears of confession and great desire for most beautiful silence. On the other hand, the surrender which is according to the aversion of God allows the soul to be filled with despair together with disbelief and wrath and delusion[5]. We must, knowing the experience of both types of surrender, approach God according to the manner of each. In the first case, we should bring forth thanksgiving with a rendering of accounts to him as to one who is chastising the profligate character of our judgement by the suspension of consolation so that he teach us as a good father the difference between good and evil. In the second case, however, ceaseless confession of our sinful practices, weeping without pause and greater solitude, so that with the addition of ascetic practices we might thus be able to beseech God to look at some time upon our hearts as before.[6] However, it must be known that when the battle occurs according to the essential[7] engagement of the soul and the Devil—I am speaking of the case of pedagogic surrender—Grace conceals itself, as I have already said, but it works together with a help that is unknown to the soul so as to demonstrate to the soul’s enemies that the victory is of the soul only.
Just as, when one is standing some place in winter-time at the beginning of the day looking wholly towards the east, all his front parts are warmed by the sun whereas all his back parts have no share in the warmth because the sun is not directly over his head, thus also those who are in the beginning of spiritual activity[8] are partially warmed round in the heart by Divine Grace. Wherefore also the mind of such persons begins at that time to bear as fruit spiritual habits of thought, but obvious parts of the mind remain with habits of thought according to the flesh because all the parts of the heart have not yet been completely illumined with the light of Divine Grace in deep [spiritual] perception. (Certain persons, however, not understanding this very thing, have thought in themselves that in the minds of those who are struggling [ascetically] there are two hypostases[9] set over against one another.) Therefore thus it happens that the mind thinks good things and not good things in the same instant, in the same way that the man in the example both shivers and is warmed at the same touch. For from the time that our mind slid away into the duality of <judgement>[10], from that time it has a need to bear, even if it should not want, both good and bad thoughts[11], certainly even among those who have come into subtlety of discernment. For as it ever makes an effort to think the good, directly it also recalls evil, because the memory of man is split into a dual conception from the time of Adam’s disobedience. Therefore if we begin with warm zeal to practise the commandments of God, thenceforth Grace, illuminating in a certain deep [spiritual] perception all our [spiritual] organs of sense, burns up as it were all our recollections, and sweetening our heart in a certain peace of unwavering friendship[12] it prepares us to think certain spiritual things and no longer according to the flesh. This occurs extremely often to those who are approaching perfection, those who unceasingly have in their heart the memory of the Lord Jesus.
Holy Grace procures two things for us in our Baptism of Rebirth, of which the one limitlessly exceeds the other. But the latter is granted immediately: it renews us in the very water and makes bright all the lines of the soul, that is, the ‘according to the image’, washing away every stain of sin. The former expects that it work with us, which very thing is the ‘according to the likeness’. When the mind therefore begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in great [spiritual] perception, then we should know that Grace is beginning to paint as it were the ‘according to the likeness’ on the ‘according to the image’. For in the same way that painters first delineate in one colour the figure of the man, then, adorning tint little by little with tint, thus capture up to the strands of hair the form of the man being portrayed—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the ‘according to the image’ by means of Baptism to whatever it was when Man came to be. But when it sees us desiring from every intention the beauty of the ‘according to the likeness’, and standing naked and unskakeable in its workshop, then, adorning virtue with virtue and bringing the form of the soul back from glory to glory it procures for it the very character[13] of the ‘according to the likeness’. Therefore on the one hand the [spiritual] perception declares that we are being formed in the ‘according to the likeness’; on the other hand we will know the perfection of the likeness from the illumination. For the mind receives all the virtues by means of the [spiritual] sense according to a certain measure and unspeakable rhythm; one cannot acquire spiritual love, however, unless he be illuminated by the Holy Spirit in every [spiritual] assurance.[14] If the mind does not receive the ‘according to the likeness’ by means of the Divine Light, on the one hand it is able to have almost all the other virtues but on the other hand it yet remains without a share in perfect love. For when it becomes like to the virtue of God, as much as a man has room to become like to God I say, then it also bears the likeness of the divine love. For just as among those who are being portrayed, the whole splendid colour of colours[15] added to the image preserves the resemblance of him who is being portrayed right up to the smile, thus also among those who are being painted wholly to the divine likeness by Divine Grace, the illumination of love added to the ‘according to the likeness’ declares the ‘according to the image’ to be a completely good resemblance.[16] For no other virtue is able to procure dispassion for the soul except love only. For the fullness of the Law is love. So, then, our inner man is renewed from day to day in the taste of love; he is completed in its perfection.
In the beginning of our progress, if indeed we ardently and warmly desire the virtue of God, the Holy Spirit makes the mind taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner assurance the sweetness of God, so that the mind know in exact knowledge the perfect reward of the God-loving ascetic practices. Thenceforward, however, it hides for much time the extravagance of this vivifying gift so that even if we should work all the other virtues completely we consider ourselves to be wholly nothing because we do not yet have the divine love as it were in habit. Thus, therefore, thereafter the demon of hatred afflicts the soul of those who are struggling [ascetically], so that it slander even those who love them with the goal of inciting hatred, and bears the corrupting activity of hatred almost up to the kiss. When thereafter the soul is pained, bearing on the one hand the memory of spiritual love but not being able on the other hand to acquire it in [spiritual] perception because of the lack of the most perfect ascetic practices. Therefore it is a necessity that we work this in the meantime by violence, so that we attain to its taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner assurance.[17] For no one being in this flesh can acquire the perfection of this love except only those saints who have come as far as martyrdom and perfect confession.[18] For he whose lot this is is wholly changed and does not easily desire food. For to him who is nourished by divine love what desire is there for the good things in the world? For this reason, the wisest Paul, the great receptacle of gnosis, announcing to us from his own spiritual experience[19] the good news of the luxuriousness of the first just men[20] which is going to be, speaks thus: ‘For the Kingdom of Heaven is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and grace in the Holy Spirit;’ which things are the fruit of perfect love. So, then, those who are progressing in perfection are able to taste this continually here, but no one is able to acquire this perfectly except when that which is mortal is swallowed up by Life.[21]

[1] I.e. the surrender by God of the soul for pedagogic reasons to the temptations of the Devil, like Job. This is usually called ‘pedagogic abandonment’.
[2] This is the second type of abandonment that the author is analyzing. Here it is a matter of an aversion of God for someone who doesn’t want God: the soul is handed over for punishment to the demons as a prisoner.
[3] Literally, ‘children of concealment’. The interpretation depends on the polarity between this and the ‘genuine children’ following.
[4] Two points here. First, it is clear that the author is catechizing his disciples and that he is frightened here of the effect on them if he emphasizes the surrender according to aversion, so he immediately moderates his words. The second point is that the author is alluding to Paul in the contrast ‘bastard – genuine child’ and in the phrase ‘to come into the measure of stature’: Hebrews 10, 39 and Ephesians 4, 13. Indeed, the fact that this is a catechism of someone’s disciples helps us to assess why the author is spending so much time on the notion that Satan might dwell in the mind (the created spirit of man) along with God: it was a pastoral problem among his disciples.
[5] Greek: tuphos. This is not the same word as plane (plani), which describes a state of demonic delusion, or false gnosis given by the demons. Here it is a matter of a subjective psychological condition of psychosis where the person is in the medical sense deluded and perhaps hallucinating: he is out of his mind.
[6] This is very similar to the ‘Prison’ in the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St John of Sinai.
[7] Greek: ousiode. The sense is that in the case under discussion the soul and the Devil actually join battle in hand-to-hand combat. It is no longer a matter of bad thoughts. See the Life of St Silouan of Athos.
[8] Greek: energeias. According to the context, this activity is the activity of Holy Spirit on the person, not the efforts of the person himself to lead a pious life.
[9] Greek: upostases. Until now the author has used the more Western word, person (Greek: prosopon). He clearly means the same thing: the supposed co-existence of a personal principle of holiness, the Holy Spirit, and of a personal principal of evil, the Devil or Satan, in the one person. It should be remarked that the author’s see was on the Western side of mainland Greece and that it might very well have had communication with the West. Another possible interpretation is that previously the author was ‘dumbing down’ his terminology but as he goes on thinks he is able to speak more precisely and theologically.
[10] ‘<Judgement (Greek: gnomes)>. The text here has ‘knowledge (Greek: gnoseos)’. While the critical apparatus does not show our reading, it seems to be required by the text. As the author has already said, the Fall introduced a duality of the will towards good or evil. However, there is nothing in his doctrine of gnosis that would suggest that the Fall also introduced a duality of intuitive knowledge or illumination, although the author certainly recognizes the possibility of demonic delusion. Judgement (gnome) does bear the sense of a personal judgement leading to a choice made by the free will. See further below in this chapter, where the duality is applied to the memory.
[11] Greek: dianoemata.
[12] This is unclear.
[13] ‘Very character’: Greek: charakter. This word means ‘engraving’, ‘engraved image’. The word is used by the Apostle Paul of the relation between Jesus Christ and the Father. Hence, here, the ‘very character’.
[14] ‘[Spiritual] assurance’: Greek: plerophoria. Here, the word means ‘consciousness’. I.e. while all the other virtues are received by means of the spiritual sense, the virtue of spiritual love is received only in a conscious illumination of the mind by the Holy Spirit. What is usually called, it seems, the Uncreated Light.
[15] This is unclear.
[16] This sentence is difficult, but it means that once the divine illumination of perfect love is added to the ‘according to the likeness’, then the soul has become a completely good resemblance to God in whose image it was created—as much, the author says, as this is possible to Man.
[17] The author means that since by the deprivation of Grace for the sake of our purification we no longer have any spiritual perception of perfect love, but even rather are tempted to the hatred of others, we must in this condition force ourselves to love so that we ultimately attain to the perfection of love in full consciousness and assurance.
[18] In the sense, evidently of the Confessors of the Faith who had gone to the stadium for martyrdom but who have survived alive.
[19] ‘Spiritual experience’: Greek: plerophoria. This is the second meaning of plerophoria—an actual illumination.
[20] Normally this refers to Adam and Eve before the Fall.
[21] I.e. after death.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 81 - 85

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

The word of gnosis teaches us that there are as it were two genera of evil spirits. The first ones of these are as it were finer, the second more material. For the finer ones war against the soul, while the others have the custom to take the body captive with certain greasy[1] consolations. Wherefore the demons that wrestle with the soul and those that wrestle with the body are opposed to each other even if they have the same intention of damaging men. Therefore when Grace does not have its abode in man,[2] they lurk in the depths of the heart after the manner, really, of serpents, not at all permitting the soul to see clearly the desire of the good. When Grace is hidden in the mind,[3] however, they thenceforward run about the parts of the heart like certain gloomy clouds, being formed into the passions of sin and into various distractions, so that lifting up into the air the remembrance of the mind they tear it away from its conversation with Grace. Therefore, when we are inflamed towards the passions of the soul by the demons which afflict the soul, and moreover towards conceit, which is itself the mother of all evils, by considering the dissolution of the body we certainly bring to shame the pretension of ambition. One must also do the same when the demons that wrestle with the body prepare the heart to boil up in shameful desires. For even this simple recollection[4] is able in the memory of God to abolish all the varieties of evil spirits. If on account of this remembrance, however, the demons of the soul suggest limitless contempt for the nature of man, on the ground that there is no value to it for any reason on account of the flesh (for they like to do this when one wishes to torture them with a thought[5] of this sort), we henceforward recall the honour and glory of the heavenly kingdom without overlooking the bitter and gloomy aspect of the Judgement, so that in the former we console our despondency while in the latter we toughen the softness of our heart.
The Lord teaches us in the Gospels that when Satan returns and finds his own house (that is, the heart that does not bear fruit) swept and put in order, he then takes seven more spirits and enters into that house and lurks there making the last things of the man worse than the first. Whence it must be understood that as long as the Holy Spirit is in us, it is not possible for Satan, entering, to reside in the depth of the soul. But the divine Paul also teaches us clearly the mind[6] of this contemplation, seeing the shape[7] of the matter from the point of view of ascetic gnosis and saying: ‘I rejoice at the Law of God according to the inner man; but I see another law in my members mobilized against the law of my mind and taking me captive in the law of sin, the law which exists in my members;’ but from the point of view of perfection: ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; for the law of the Spirit of Life has freed me from the law of sin and death.’ Again, so that he teach us that from the body Satan wars against the soul which partakes of the Holy Spirit, he also says elsewhere: ‘Stand, therefore, having girded your loins in truth and having clothed yourself with the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet in preparation of the Gospel of Peace, taking up over all the shield of faith in which you are able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One, and receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ ‘Captivity’ is one thing, ‘battle’ another, since the former is significant of violent seizure whereas the second is declarative of a certain equipollent[8] struggle. Wherefore the Apostle says that the Devil is always coming against the Christ-bearing souls[9] with flaming arrows. For he who is not in control of his own opponent at all events makes use of arrows against him, so that he be able to destroy with the feather of the arrows him who is battling from a distance. Thus also, because Satan is not able on account of the presence of Grace to lurk as previously[10] in the mind of those who are struggling [ascetically] he thenceforward lays hand on the moistness[11] and lurks in the body so that he entice the soul on account of the body’s licentiousness. Wherefore it is necessary moderately to melt the body away so that the mind not slip by means of the body’s moistness into the softness of pleasures. For it is proper to be persuaded by that Apostolic saying that the mind of those who struggle [ascetically][12] is set into activity by the divine light and that therefore their mind also serves and rejoices in the divine Law. The flesh, however, gladly admits the evil spirits on account of its own licentiousness, wherefore it is sometimes drawn out to serve their evil. Whence it certainly appears that the mind is not some common dwelling place of God and the Devil. For how is it that ‘I serve the Law of God in my mind, but in the flesh the law of sin;’ unless my mind stands in every freedom towards battle with the demons, willingly being subjected to the goodness of Grace, while the body gladly admits the odour of the irrational passions (because, as I said, among those who are struggling [ascetically] it is permitted to the evil spirits of deceit to lurk in the body)? For he says: ‘For I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;’—thus among those who are resisting in the middle of some struggle. For the Apostle does not say this from himself: the demons battle against the mind but they endeavour by greasy consolations to loosen the body towards the softness of the pleasures. For because the free will of the human habit of thought[13] is ever under test, according to a just judgement they have once and for all been allowed to sojourn around the depths of the body even among those who are earnestly struggling against sin. If one is able, then, while still alive to die by means of ascetic practices, then he becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit completely, for before such a person has died he has been resurrected, just as the Blessed Paul was, and as many as have struggled perfectly, and struggle, against sin.
Out of itself also[14] the heart bears thoughts[15] both good and not good, not by nature bearing as fruit the conceptions[16] which are not good but having the remembrance of that which is not good in habit, as it were, on account of the very first deceit; but the heart conceives most evil thoughts out of the bitterness of the demons. However, we sense all of the thoughts as having proceeded from our own heart and for this reason certain persons have suggested that sin is also in the mind with Grace. Wherefore they also say that the Lord said: ‘Those things which come out of the mouth come out of the heart and these things pollute a man; for out of the heart come out evil thoughts, adulteries;’ and the rest. They do not know that the mind, having the activity of a certain most subtle sense, makes its own, as it were by means of the flesh, the activity of the thoughts[17] suggested to it by the evil spirits, the licentiousness of the body in addition bearing the soul to this through the commixture[18] in a manner that we do not know.[19] Because the flesh ever cherishes[20] being flattered by deceit without measure, for this reason the thoughts[21] sown in the soul by the demons also seem to come out of the heart. For we make these thoughts[22] our own, really, when we wish to rejoice in them. Censuring this very thing the Lord made use of the forementioned quotation, since the divine saying declares this. For he who rejoices in the thoughts[23] suggested from the wickedness of Satan and as it were engraves the memory of them in his own heart—it is not unclear that he bears these thoughts as fruit from his own conception[24].
The Lord says in the Gospel that it is not possible to expel the strong one from his house unless someone who is stronger, having bound and despoiled him, expels him. How is it therefore possible that he who has been expelled with so much shame should enter in again and sojourn with the true householder who is reposing however he wishes in his own house? For not even a king who at some time has struggled greatly against the tyrant who has rebelled against him will countenance having this person in the palace. Rather, he will slaughter him immediately or, having bound him, hand him over to his own troops for a long punishment and most miserable death.
If someone supposes, because we think good things together with bad, that the Holy Spirit and the Devil together inhabit the mind, let him learn that this happens because we have not yet tasted and seen that the Lord is good. For, first, as I said above, Grace hides its presence among the baptized, awaiting the intention of the soul; when, however, a man turns his intention wholly towards the Lord, then at that time Grace manifests its presence in the heart with a certain unspeakable perception; and it again awaits the movement of the soul, allowing, indeed, the demonic arrows to reach right up to its deep [spiritual] sense, so that with warmer intention and humble disposition it seek out the Lord. If therefore a man henceforth begin to proceed in the keeping of the commandments and unceasingly invoke the Lord Jesus, then the fire of Holy Grace is distributed even on the more external organs of sense of the heart, with inner assurance[25] burning up the weeds of the human earth.[26] Whence even <the demonic arrows>[27] reach somewhat further away from those places, pricking tranquilly the impassioned part of the soul.[28] When the man of the struggle further binds to himself all the virtues, and certainly poverty, then Grace illuminates his whole nature in a certain deeper [spiritual] sense towards a great love of God which henceforth warms him round. Wherefore the bows[29] are then extinguished more externally to the sense of the body.[30] For moving the heart towards winds of peace the breeze of the Holy Spirit completely extinguishes the arrows of the fire-bearing demon while the arrows are still borne in the air. However, on occasion God surrenders to the evil of the demons even the one who has attained to this very measure, at that time abandoning his mind without light, so that in everything our free will not be bound with the bond of Grace, not only so that sin be defeated out of struggles, but also because the man is yet obliged to progress in spiritual experience. For [to esteem that] that which is thought to be the perfection of him who is being trained is still imperfect as regards the wealth of God who is training us exists in love of a sense of honour, even if one should be able to ascend the whole ladder which was shown to Jacob by progress in ascetic practices.[31]

[1] Greek: liparon. It is not entirely clear what this means in context.
[2] I.e. before Baptism.
[3] I.e. after Baptism.
[4] I.e. of the dissolution of the body. This is usually called the Memory of Death.
[5] Greek: ennoia.
[6] Greek: nous. I.e. meaning or sense.
[7] Greek: schema.
[8] I.e. equal in power. Both sides in the struggle have the same strength.
[9] I.e. souls which have the Holy Spirit indwelling through Baptism.
[10] I.e. before Baptism.
[11] Greek: ugroteti. The editor of the critical edition renders this as the humours of the body, which is probably what the author has in the back of his mind.
[12] Here the author seems to mean all Christians, however.
[13] ‘Way of thinking’: Greek: phronematos.
[14] I.e. not only does the person have bad thoughts on account of the demons, or even good thoughts on account of the Holy Spirit, but also out of his own nature. The issue then becomes, well where does the person get bad thoughts if they arise out of his own nature given that God made everything good?
[15] Greek: logismous.
[16] Greek: ennoias.
[17] Greek: logismon.
[18] I.e. through the mixing together of the soul and body.
[19] This very difficult sentence means that the mind has a certain subtle sense which appropriates as it were by means of the flesh the thought suggested by the demons, while, in addition, the body itself through its own natural licentiousness brings the soul to this because of the body and soul’s commixture, in a way that we do not know.
[20] Greek: philei.
[21] Greek: logismoi.
[22] Greek: logismous.
[23] Greek: logismois.
[24] Greek: ennoias.
[25] I.e. The person is conscious of this and spiritually reassured.
[26] The author appears to view the interior world of the ascetic as having levels of depth so that he can speak of inner and outer spiritual senses. What he is saying is that when the Holy Spirit tries the ascetic, it allows the demonic arrows to reach to the depths of the ascetic’s inner world but when ascetic makes progress in keeping the commandments and unceasingly remembers the Lord Jesus via the Jesus Prayer, then the fire of Grace touches not only the most interior part of the ascetic’s inner world but expands outward to the more external spiritual organs of sense of the heart. This is evidently based on the author’s own experience both in the Jesus Prayer and as a guide of souls.
[27] Greek: <ta demonika bele>. The text has ‘the demonic counsels (Greek: ai demonikai boulai), which the other translators have rendered as ‘the demonic attacks (Greek: ai demonikai epiboulai)’. Surely, however, given that ‘the demonic arrows’ is a consistent element here and elsewhere in St Diadochos’ text and given that he immediately goes on to speak of these things ‘pricking or piercing’, the text is faulty and to be emended in the manner given.
[28] Evidently the author means that the arrows reach only to the more external parts of the heart, not to the centre as before, thus pricking more gently the impassioned parts of the soul. The text is corrupt it seems.
[29] Greek: toxa. From arrows being extinguished we have arrived at bows. Perhaps this is literary.
[30] Note that the author has a sort of set of concentric circles: the innermost circle or bull’s-eye is Grace itself united to the mind. Close to this is the innermost spiritual sense. Then further out are the more external spiritual senses of the heart. Finally there are the senses of the body. The author is saying that when Grace recedes, then the arrows of the demons reach to the innermost spiritual sense, but as Grace grows stronger because of the ascetic’s application to the ascetic struggle, the arrows only reach to the more external spiritual senses because of the more extensive presence of Grace. Finally, when the ascetic has reached to the stage of binding all the virtues to himself, then the arrows of the demons are extinguished beyond even the physical senses of the body, the outermost circle. But see later in the text how the author treats the stage of perfection.
[31] What the author means is that when the Christian has a proper sense of honour—which is really love for the God who has created us—then, instead of boasting of his attainments, he considers that what he has accomplished is nothing in the wealth of God whom he has loved.