Sunday, 3 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 26 - 35

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.
Those who are engaged in ascetic struggles must keep the intellect unwashed by waves so that, discerning the thoughts which run to and fro, the mind put those that are good and sent from God into the treasury of the memory but cast somewhere outside of the store-rooms of nature those that are ill-omened and demonic. For when it is serene even the sea is seen by those catching fish up to the very movement of its deep, almost nothing eluding them of the paths of the animals which go through there; but when the sea is agitated by the winds, it hides in the gloominess of the agitation those very things that in the laughter of serenity it has the honour to let be seen. Whence, we then see to be idle the art of those who contrive the fishing devices; and it also undoubtedly happens that the contemplative mind suffers this very same thing, and certainly when the depth of the soul is agitated by an unjust anger.
It is of the extremely few precisely to know their own faults, and of those whose mind is never snatched away from the memory of God. For in the same way that when our bodily eyes are healthy they are able to see everything up to the gnats and insects flying through the air but when they are covered by turbidity or certain humours they see only dimly some great thing they encounter and do not perceive the small things with the sense of sight—thus also the soul if it refines by attention the blindness which occurs to it from love of the world and in great thanksgiving unceasingly brings tear upon tear, treating its most trivial faults as the most serious. For he says: ‘The just will confess in your name.’ If, however, the soul persists in the disposition of the world, then if it commits something murderous or worthy of great punishment it senses this tranquilly, not being at all able to take note of the other faults but often considering them to be achievements of a sort, the wretched soul not being ashamed as it warmly recounts them.
It is of the Holy Spirit alone to purify the mind. For if the strong man does not enter in and despoil the robber, by no means will the booty be freed. It is therefore obligatory to give repose by every means to the Holy Spirit, especially in the peace of the soul, so that we always have the lamp of gnosis shining in us. For when the Holy Spirit unceasingly flashes like lightning in the treasuries of the soul, not only do all those bitter and dark assaults of the demons become most obvious to the mind but they are extremely weakened, reproached as they are by that holy and glorious light. For this reason the Apostle says: ‘Do not extinguish the Spirit;’ in the sense of: ‘Do not sorrow the goodness of the Holy Spirit by doing evil works or speaking evil, so that you not be deprived of that defending lamp.’ For that which is eternal and vivifying is not extinguished, but its sorrow, that is to say, its aversion, leaves the mind gloomy and without the light of gnosis.
The Holy and Philanthropic[1] Spirit of God teaches us that there is one, as I said, natural sense of the soul, since, once and for all, the five [bodily senses] differ according to the needs of our body. On account of the fall which occurred from disobedience, however, this natural sense of the soul is divided in the mind, in the movements of the very soul. For one part of this natural sense is carried off with the impassioned part of the soul, while the other part rejoices at the rational and spiritual[2] movement of the soul, for which reason our mind, when we are sober, has the desire to run towards the heavenly beauties. Therefore if we come into the habit of despising the good things in the world we will be able to join the earthly appetite of the soul together with the soul’s rational disposition, the communion of the Holy Spirit dispensing this to us. For if its divinity should not actively illumine the treasuries of our heart, we would not be able to taste the Good in the undivided sense, that is to say, in an integral disposition.[3]
The sense of the mind is the exact taste of those things that are discerned. For in the way that we desire the good things when with the bodily sense of taste we distinguish good things from ordinary, so in the same way our mind is able to perceive richly the divine consolation and never at all to be seized by its opposite, when it begins to move healthily and in great freedom from care.[4] For just as, tasting earthly sweets, the body has a faultless experience of the sense [of taste], thus also when the mind boasts [of being] above the thought of the flesh[5] it is able to taste unerringly the consolation of the Holy Spirit (for he says: ‘taste and see that the Lord is good;’) and through the activity of love to have unforgettable the memory of that taste in faultlessly testing those things which differ, according to the saint who says: ‘And I pray for this very thing, that your love be more and more abundant in knowledge and in all sense so that you test those things which differ.’
Once our mind has begun to perceive the consolation of the Holy Spirit, then Satan also consoles the soul in a certain sweet-seeming sense[6] when in the night-time stillness one comes to the edge of a very light sleep. Then if the mind be found keeping the holy name of the Lord Jesus in extremely warm remembrance and makes use of that holy and glorious name just like a weapon against the deception,[7] then the deceiver departs from his ruse and kindles actual war of the soul. Whence, knowing exactly the deception of the Evil One, the mind progresses further in the experience of discernment.
The good consolation occurs while the body is alert or at the hint of a sleep which is going to come, when in the warm remembrance of God someone has as it were adhered to his love;[8] but the consolation of deception always occurs when the ascetic has come into a certain light sleep, as I said, with moderate remembrance of God. The first, clearly being from God, wishes to console the souls of the strugglers of piety in a great outpouring of the soul towards love; the second, since it has the custom to fan the soul in a certain wind of deception, attempts to steal by means of the sleep of the body the experience of the healthy mind in regard to the memory of God. Therefore, if the mind be found, as I said, to have been attentively remembering the Lord Jesus, on the one hand it disperses that seemingly sweet breeze of the Enemy and on the other hand, rejoicing, it sets itself into motion in war against the Enemy, having as a second weapon with Grace the boast that comes from experience.
If the soul is kindled by a movement without doubt and without fantasy towards the love of God while it is alert or coming into a sleep activated by divine grace in the way that I have said, drawing as it were the body to the depth of that unspeakable love, the soul thinking nothing else at all except only that into which it is being moved, it must be known that the activity is of the Holy Spirit. For being completely sweetened by that inexpressible sweetness, the soul is then unable to think anything else at all, since it rejoices with a steadfast joy. If, then, there is any doubt at all or a certain sordid thought, or if the soul makes use of the holy name as a weapon for defence and not actually only towards the love of God, it must be thought that that consolation is from the deceiver in an outward appearance of joy; and that joy is without quality and completely disordered, the Enemy wishing the soul to commit adultery. For when the Enemy sees the mind boasting exactly of its own [mental or spiritual] sense then with certain good-seeming consolations, as I have said, it provokes the soul so that the soul being divided by that soft and most liquid sweetness and the Enemy being unrecognizable, there occurs the intercourse of the Treacherous One [with the soul]. Therefore, from this we will know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. Nevertheless, it is impossible for someone to taste the divine goodness in [spiritual or mental] perception or to make trial sensibly[9] of the bitterness of the demons unless one gives assurance to himself that grace has come to dwell in the depths of the mind whereas the evil spirits linger around the members of the heart,[10] which very thing the demons never at all wish to be believed by men, so that the mind, having learned this exactly, not arm itself against them with the remembrance of God.
One thing is the love which is natural to the soul and another thing is the love which occurs to it from the Holy Spirit. For the first is set into motion moderately, when we wish, from our own will, and for that reason it is easily plundered by the demons when we do not restrain our own intention with violence[11]. The second, however, so much enkindles the soul towards the love of God that then in an unutterable way all the parts of soul fasten on to the goodness of the divine longing in a certain infinite simplicity of disposition. For having then become as it were pregnant by the spiritual activity,[12] the mind spouts a certain fountain of love and joy.
Just as the sea when it is agitated has the nature to give way to the oil poured upon it, the storm being defeated by the nature of the oil, thus also our soul gladly becomes serene when it is fattened by the goodness of the Holy Spirit. Rejoicing, it is defeated according to the saint who says: ‘Yet be submissive to God, O my soul,’ in that overshadowing, dispassionate and unutterable goodness. On account of this, therefore, as many irritations are then contrived by the demons against the soul it remains without anger and full of every joy. One comes to this very thing or remains in it if he unceasingly sweetens his soul in the fear of God. For the fear of the Lord Jesus bears a certain form of purification to those who are engaged in ascetic struggles: ‘For the fear of the Lord is pure, remaining to the ages of ages.’

[1] Philanthropic. The Greek word means ‘loving of Mankind’, but there is no easy way we know of to render the exact meaning.
[2] Greek: noeran. Literally, ‘mental, pertaining to the mind or nous’.
[3] The author means that in the post-Fall condition of life, part of the spiritual sense runs after the movements of the impassioned part of the soul while the other part desires the heavenly goods. It is only through the illumination of the innermost chambers of our heart by the divinity of the Holy Spirit that we can return to the pre-Fall condition of tasting the Good with an undivided spiritual sense, that is to say, in a condition of complete personal integration where we are no longer divided between the movements of the impassioned part of the soul and our desire for the heavenly goods.
[4] The author means that the mind must have no occupation with worldly affairs.
[5] Here and elsewhere the author uses ‘boasts’ in the good sense of ‘has attained’.
[6] I.e. a false spiritual or mental sense.
[7] This appears to be the first recorded reference to the Jesus Prayer in history.
[8] I.e. adhered to the love of God. It is not clear to us whether or not the author is drawing a parallel with someone adhering to his loved one in the marriage bed while on the verge of sleep.
[9] I.e. consciously.
[10] As the author develops later, this occurs only in Baptism.
[11] This is the violence of the Gospel.
[12] I.e. the activity of the Holy Spirit. This is a metaphor: ‘as it were’.

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