Monday, 4 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 36 - 50

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.
Let no one hearing ‘sense of the mind’ hope that the glory of God will be visibly seen by him. For we say that it is sensed, when the soul might be purified, in a sort of unspeakable taste of divine consolation, not that something of the invisible appears[1] to it, for now we walk by faith and not by sight[2] as says the blessed Paul. Therefore, if there should appear to one of the strugglers in asceticism a light, or figure[3] having the form of fire, let him by no means accept the vision of this sort in any way. For it is a clear deception of the Enemy, which very thing many have suffered from ignorance and departed from the road of truth. We know that insofar as we sojourn in this corruptible body we are abroad from God, that is to say, we are not able visibly[4] to see either him or one of his Heavenly wonders.
The dreams that appear to the soul in the love of God are undeceiving accusers of that soul which is to a certain extent healthy. For that very reason they[5] are neither transformed from one shape to another,[6] nor do they suddenly shake the sense, nor do they laugh or suddenly take on a gloomy air, but they approach the soul with every clemency, completely filling it with every spiritual gladness. Whence, once the body has awoken the soul seeks the joy of the dream with great longing. But the fantasies of the demons are in every respect the opposite. For they[7] neither remain in the same shape nor show for very long an undisturbed form. For that which they do not have of their own free will but only make use of from their own deception is unable to suffice them for very long;[8] moreover, they also say grandiose things and very often threaten, often shaping themselves into the appearance of soldiers; occasionally they chant to the soul with shouting. Whence, once it has been purified recognizing them clearly, the soul that has been subjected to the fantasy awakens the body; there is also the case where it even rejoices at having been able to recognize clearly the ruse of the demons. For which reason, having reproached the demons in the very dream, the soul moves them to a great anger.[9] Yet there is also the case where the good dreams do not bear joy to the soul but create in it a sweet sorrow and painless weeping. This occurs to those who make great progress in humility.
We ourselves have said what we have heard from those who have come to experience: the discernment of good from bad dreams. For the sake of great virtue, however, let it be sufficient for us not to be in any way persuaded by any fantasy at all. For dreams are for the most part nothing other than the phantoms of deluded thought or again, as I said, the mockery of demons. So if sometime there would be sent to us a vision from the goodness of God and we did not accept it, our most longed-for Lord Jesus would not grow angry with us on account of this. For he knows that we come to this on account of the ruses of the demons. For the aforesaid discernment is exact but it also happens that through the plundering of something imperceptible the soul which has been made filthy—no one is exempt from this, I think—loses the trace of the exact discernment and believes in things which are not good as if they were good.
As an example of this, let there be for us the servant who is hailed by night by his master from in front of the yard of the house after a long absence abroad. To whom the servant absolutely refuses the opening of the doors. He has been frightened lest, plundering him, the similarity of voice prepare him to become betrayer of the things that were entrusted by the master. With whom his lord is not angry once it has become day but finds him worthy of many praises, for he thought that even the voice of the master was a deception, not wanting to lose any of his goods.
It must not be doubted that when the mind begins densely to be acted upon by the divine light it becomes somewhat transparent so that it richly sees its own light, and that this word will come to pass when the mind has dominated the passions. That whatever appears to the mind with shape[10], either as light or as fire, occurs through the evil art of the Enemy, the divine Paul teaches us clearly, saying that he[11] is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore one must not undertake the ascetic life with this hope, so that Satan not find the soul ready for plunder on account of it, but only so that we arrive at loving God in every perception and assurance of heart, which very thing is ‘with the whole heart and with the whole soul and with the whole intellect’. For he who is acted upon by divine grace to this degree departs from the world even if he should still be present in the world.
Obedience is known to be the first good among all the introductory virtues, for, to begin with, it sets aside our conceit, and then it begets in us humility. Whence it also becomes a gate of love in God among those who gladly sustain it. Having set this aside, Adam slipped away into the Tartarean deep. Having, in the word of the Dispensation[12], loved this up to the Cross and death, the Lord was obedient to his own Father (and this even though he was in no way less than the Father’s greatness), so that having paid in full[13] the crime of Mankind’s disobedience through his own obedience he lead again to the blessed and eternal life those who have lived in obedience.[14] Therefore those who sustain a battle against the conceit of the Devil must first take a care to obedience, for as we progress it will show us without deception all the paths of the virtues.
Temperance is the common title of all the virtues. Therefore he who is keeping temperance must be temperate in everything. For just as whatever smallest member of a man that is removed disfigures the whole of the man, however insignificant the part that is missing from the figure, thus he who neglects one of the virtues loses the whole dignity of temperance in a way that he does not know. One must therefore apply himself not only to the bodily virtues but also to those which are able to purify our inner man. For what profit is it to someone who keeps the body in virginity if the soul has committed adultery with the demon of disobedience? Or how will he who has refrained from gluttony and every bodily desire but who has not taken a care to conceit and ambition, neither sustained a slight affliction, be crowned when the scales will counterbalance the light of justice to those who are practising the works of justice in a spirit of humility?[15]
Those engaged in ascetic struggles must take a care to hate all the irrational desires in such a way as to acquire hatred for them as a habit; however, it is necessary to preserve temperance in regard to foods in such a way that one does not ever come into a loathing for any of them, for this is both accursed and completely demonic. For we do not abstain from any of them because they are wicked—may it not be!—but so that, breaking ourselves off from the many and good foods, we moderately mortify the inflamed parts of the body, and, further, so that our abundance become a sufficient provision for the poor, which very thing is the identifying mark of true love.
To eat and drink from all those things which are served or mixed,[16] giving thanks to God, in no way battles against the rule of gnosis,[17] ‘for all things were exceedingly good.’ To abstain willingly from the tasty and the many is both most discerning and more gnostic,[18] for we would not willingly despise the tasty foods which are present if we have not tasted the sweetness of God in every perception and assurance.
In the same way that weighed down by a multitude of foods the body makes the mind to be somewhat timid and slow-moving, so, weakened by much temperance, the body renders the contemplative part of the soul[19] gloomy and indisposed to letters. It is therefore necessary to prepare the foods in accordance with the movements of the body, so that when the body is healthy it be mortified appropriately but when it is weak it be fattened moderately. For he who is waging ascetic struggles should not weaken the body [completely], but only so much as it will still be able to suffice for the struggle, so that even in labours of the body the soul might be purified appropriately.
When vainglory is greatly inflamed against us, finding a pretext for its own evil in the sojourn of certain brothers or of any strangers at all, it is good to permit the moderate relaxation of the customary diet. For then we will send the demon[20] away not having accomplished anything and rather mourning the endeavour; moreover, we will fulfil the institution of love in an acceptable way while preserving by means of the condescension the mystery of temperance free from ostentation.
Fasting has a boast in itself but not towards God, for it is a tool which trains in chastity those who wish. Therefore those who struggle for piety should not think great things of fasting but should await in the faith of God our completion of the goal, for no masters at all of any of the arts boast of the results of their profession from the tools, but each of them awaits the final form of the endeavour so that from that the exactness of the art be exhibited.
In the same way that the earth, moderately watered, sends forth pure and greatly increased the seed which has been sown in it, but becoming drunk from the many rains bears only thistles and thorns, thus also the land of the heart, if we should make moderate use of wine, gives forth pure its natural seeds and brings forth greatly thriving and very fruitful that which has been sown in it by the Holy Spirit, but if it should become soaked from much drinking it really bears all its thoughts as thorns and thistles.
When our mind swims in the wave of much drinking, it not only sees in its sleep the impassioned phantoms figured by the demons but moulding in itself certain fine apparitions also makes ardent use of its own fantasies as loved ones of a sort. For when the organs of intercourse are warmed by the heat of the wine, there is every need for the mind to present to itself a voluptuous shadow of the passion. Therefore, making use in moderation, we should avoid the damage from excess. For when the mind does not have the pleasure dragging it down to paint of the picture of sin, it remains completely without fantasy and, what is better, without effeminacy.
All the manufactured drinks, which nowadays are called aperitifs by the artisans of this invention, on account of the fact, so it seems, that they guide the multitude of foods into the stomach, must not be pursued by those who wish to mortify the parts of the body which swell up. For not only does the quality of these things become damaging to the ascetically struggling bodies, but their absurd manufacture itself also wounds the God-bearing conscience. For what is it that is lacking in the nature of wine, then, that by the mixture of various condiments its firmness should be made effeminate?

[1] I.e. with the bodily senses.
[2] Greek: eidous.
[3] Greek: schema.
[4] I.e. with the bodily senses.
[5] I.e. the personalities in the dream.
[6] It is a staple of Christian demonology that the demons cannot maintain the same form very long but are always being transformed from one shape to another.
[7] I.e. the demons.
[8] This is a key characteristic of the demons: because, for example, they do not have virtue they can only present the appearance of virtue on the basis of their own delusion. But this masquerade cannot suffice them for very long, so they change shape and appearance. This characteristic is expressed by saying that what is demonic is ‘anhypostato’—lacking in substantial existence. In Greek philosophy this is the opposite of having a substantial existence as an essence instantiated in matter.
[9] I.e. in the dream itself the mind converses with the demons—fallen angels with actual personality—and by reproaching them provokes them to great anger.
[10] Greek: schema. This means ‘shape or form or figure’.
[11] I.e. Satan.
[12] Given that he continues with a quotation from Paul, the author seems to mean ‘according to the New Testament’.
[13] Greek: eklusas. This verb takes on a variety of meanings and our rendition should not be taken as establishing St Diadochos’ position on the nature of Christ’s redemptive act on the Cross.
[14] The author’s intended audience is persons living or desiring to live the monastic life of asceticism.
[15] The Greek isn’t entirely clear.
[16] It is difficult to convey it simply, but in St Diadochos’ day foods were served and drinks—especially wines—were mixed.
[17] I.e. the monastic rule, whose goal is gnosis.
[18] More gnostic. Greek: gnostikoteron. I.e. showing more experience of gnosis.
[19] This is the mind.
[20] I.e. the demon of vainglory.

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