Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 61 - 70

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

When the soul is agitated by anger or made turbid by drunkenness or troubled by severe despondency, then as much as one might press the mind, the mind is unable to become master of the remembrance of the Lord Jesus. For having become wholly darkened by the terribleness of the passions, the mind becomes completely estranged from its native sense; and for that very reason it does not have anywhere for its desire to imprint the seal so that it bear unforgettably the form of the meditation, the memory of the intellect having become hard from the rawness of the passions.[1] If, however, the mind should be beyond these things, then even if the desired one[2] be stolen for a little by forgetfulness, immediately the mind, making use of its natural aptitude, lays hold again of that highly desired and salvific prey. For in itself the soul has Grace itself meditating together with it and crying the ‘Lord Jesus’ together with it, just as a mother might teach her own infant the father’s name, and, again, meditate on that name together with the infant up to the time that she guide her infant into the habit of calling on the father even in sleep, to the exclusion of any other infantile speech at all.[3] For this reason the Apostle says: ‘Similarly, then, the Spirit helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray as it should be; but the Spirit intercedes for us with unutterable sighs.’ For since we are infants with regard to the perfection of the virtue of prayer, we have at all events need of the assistance of the Spirit so that, all our thoughts having been recollected and completely sweetened by the Spirit’s unspeakable sweetness, we be set in motion with our whole disposition towards the memory and love of God the Father. For when we are regulated by the Spirit unceasingly to call on God the Father, we cry in the Spirit, as again the divine Paul says: ‘Daddy, Father.’[4]
Anger has the custom to agitate and confuse the soul more than the other passions; however, there are occasions when it is of the greatest benefit to the soul. For whenever we make use of anger without agitation against those who are acting impiously or in any way immorally we provide an addition of meekness to the soul. For in every way we thus concur with the goal of the righteousness and the goodness of God, and when we are heavily angered against sin we often also make manly the womanishness of the soul. It must also not be doubted that when we rebuke the demon of corruption even though we are in great despondency, we are minded above the boast of death. So that he teach us this very thing, the Lord, twice rebuking Hades in the Spirit and agitating himself—although doing everything that he wanted without agitation by an act of the will only—, thus restored the soul of Lazarus to the body, so that, it seems to me, prudent anger[5] has been given to our nature rather as a weapon by God who created us. If Eve had made use of this very anger against the serpent she would not have been set in motion by that impassioned pleasure. It therefore seems to me that he who on account of a zeal for piety prudently[6] makes use of anger will in every respect be found in the scale of recompenses[7] to be more tried and tested than he who is never moved at all to anger on account of an inertia of mind. For the latter seems to have the rein of the human wits[8] unexercised whereas the former is ever brought for battle on the horses of virtue into the midst of the battle-line of the demons, fully exercising the four-horse chariot of temperance[9] in the fear of God. We find this very thing spoken of by Scripture as the chariot of Israel in the ascension of the divine Elias, for first to the Jews God seems to speak in various ways concerning the four virtues. For indeed this one who was nourished so much in virtue was wholly taken up on a chariot of fire, the prudent one[10] making use, it seems to me, of the virtues as horses, in the Spirit which ravished him in a breeze[11] of fire.
He who partakes of holy gnosis and tastes the sweetness of God ought neither to sit in judgement[12] nor bring a law-suit against anyone even should someone take those very things with which he is clothed. For the righteousness of the rulers of this world is at all events defeated in the righteousness of God or, rather, is nothing compared to God’s right. For what difference would there be between those who are nourished by God and those who are nourished by this age[13] if it is not that the right of the latter seems imperfect compared to the righteousness of the former, so that the one be called human right and the other divine righteousness? Thus our Lord Jesus neither berated in return when he was berated, nor threatened when he was suffering, but endured in silence even the removal of his clothes and, to say the great thing, asked the Father for the salvation of the wrongdoers. However, the men of this world do not cease to go to law, unless occasionally they recover with an addition the things for which they have gone to law, and certainly when the interest is received before the principal[14], so that their right often becomes the beginning of a great injustice.
One must not, I have heard certain pious persons say, allow just anyone at all to seize those very things which we have for our own administration or for the repose of the poor, and certainly if we suffer this from Christians—so that we not become occasions of sin to those who are doing us an injustice by means of those things towards which we are showing long-suffering.[15] This is nothing more than to want our goods rather than ourselves coupled with an illogical excuse. For if abandoning prayer and attention to my own heart I begin to file law-suits against those who wish to use me badly, and to sit in the corridors outside the law-courts, it is obvious that I consider the things that are being sought greater than my own salvation, not to say, greater than that salvific command. For how will I follow the evangelical command which orders me, ‘And do not demand your things from him who takes them;’ unless I endure with joy in accordance with the Apostolic saying the seizure of those things which belong to me, whereas once one had gone to law and recovered as much as he wanted, still he would not have freed the avaricious person from his sin?[16] The corruptible courts are not able to define the incorruptible court of God, for at all events the party at fault appeals only to those laws before which and according to which he makes his defence concerning the issue at hand.[17] So it is good for us to bear the violence of those who wish to commit an injustice against us and to pray for them, so that through repentance, and not through the restitution of our things which they have seized, they be freed from the crime of avarice. For this is what the righteousness of the Lord wishes, that we at some time render not the person against whom was committed the act of avarice but the person who was avaricious, free of sin through repentance.
Once we have come to know the road of piety it is most appropriate, and beneficial in every respect, immediately to sell all our goods and to distribute the proceeds from them in accordance with the commandment of the Lord, and not to disobey the salvific order with the excuse that we want always to keep the commandments.[18] For from this there will be for us first that good freedom from care and, further on account of that, an uncrafty poverty minded above every injustice and every law-suit, since we no longer have the fire kindled of those that covet matter. Then, more than the other virtues, humility warms us round and gives us repose in its bosom because we are naked, like a mother who takes up and completely warms her own child in her arms when in its childish simplicity it has taken off and thrown somewhere far away its own clothing, on account of great guilelessness enjoying nakedness rather than the diverse colours of the clothing. For he says: ‘The Lord guards the infants; I humbled myself and he saved me.’
The Lord will at all events demand of us an account of our almsgiving according to what we have, not according to what we have not. If therefore because of fear of the Lord I scatter in little time in a goodly way whatever I had to give over many years, concerning what will I who have nothing still be arraigned? But someone will say: ‘Whence then will those poor be shown mercy who were customarily managed from our own mediocre means bit by bit?’ Let such a person learn not to upbraid God in the excuse of his own love of money. For God will not lack the means to manage his own creature as from the beginning. For neither before this or that person rose up in charity did the poor lack for food or clothing. It is good, therefore, in accordance with this very knowledge[19] to cast off with a good ministry the irrational boast that arises from wealth, hating our own desires, (which very thing is to hate one’s own soul), so that we no longer hold our soul in great contempt as working nothing of the good things because we are rejoicing over the scattering of money. For as long as we are somewhat well-provided with goods, we rejoice greatly over their scattering (if indeed there is in us an activity of the good), as cheerfully ministering to the divine commandment; but when we have exhausted our goods, then limitless sorrow and lowliness secretly enter in to us as practising nothing worthy of righteousness. Whence thereafter the soul returns to itself in great humility so that what it is not able to acquire every day by means of almsgiving it take care of in itself with the assiduous prayer[20] and the patient endurance and the humility. For he says: ‘The poor and the indigent will praise your name, Lord.’ For the charism of theology[21] is not made ready by God for someone if one does not prepare himself, divesting himself of all the things that belong to him for the sake of the glory of the Gospel of God, so that he preach the wealth of the Kingdom of God in a God-loving indigence. For he who said, ‘You have prepared for the poor man in your goodness, O Lord;’ and added, ‘God will give speech in great power to those who preach the Gospel;’ clearly means this very thing.
On the one hand all the charisms of our God are exceedingly good[22] and provide every goodness but on the other hand nothing kindles and moves our heart to the love of his goodness as much as theology. For being the early offspring of the grace of God it also grants to the soul gifts that are in every way first. First it prepares us to despise with joy all the friendships of this life since we have instead of corruptible desires the unspeakable wealth of the sayings of God. Next it illuminates our mind with the fire of change[23], whence it even makes the mind a communicant of the ministering spirits.[24] Therefore, beloved, let us who have been prepared for it genuinely desire this virtue, this comely virtue, this virtue which sees all, this virtue which provides every freedom from care, this virtue which nourishes the mind in a dawn of light in the words of God and, not to go on at length, this virtue which harmonizes the rational soul by means of the holy Prophets towards an inseparable communion with the Word of God, so that even among men—Oh the wonder!—the divine leader of the bride[25] harmonize the godly[26] voices singing clearly the mighty deeds of God.[27]
Our mind is for the most part vexed in regard to the prayer[28] because of the very straitened and secretive character[29] of the virtue of prayer;[30] however it rejoices to give itself over to theology because of the diffuse and released nature of the divine contemplations.[31] Therefore, so that we do not give a road to the mind to want to speak much, or even allow it in its great joy to take wing beyond its measure, let us for the most part be at leisure[32] in prayer and psalmody and the reading of Holy Scripture, not overlooking the contemplations[33] of learned men whose faith is recognized through their words.[34] For doing this very thing, neither will we prepare the mind’s own words[35] to be mixed with the words[36] of Grace nor will we allow the mind to be dragged under by vainglory, the mind having been dissipated through the great joy and much speech; but we will guard the mind free of fantasy in the time of contemplation[37] and we will take care of it so that almost all its thoughts be full of tears[38]. For reposing in the times of stillness[39] and deeply sweetened by the sweetness of the prayer[40] the mind does not only come to be outside of the aforementioned faults but is more and more renewed in applying itself to the divine contemplations[41] and in progressing in the contemplation[42] of discernment in much humility. However, it must be known that there is a prayer[43] which is above every diffuseness. This is only of those who are filled with divine grace in every spiritual sense[44] and assurance[45].
In the beginning Grace has the custom to illuminate the mind with it’s[46] own light in much [spiritual] perception, but when the [ascetical] battles progress it for the most part sets its own mysteries into action in the theological soul[47] in an unknown manner, so that in the first case it loose us rejoicing on the trace of the divine contemplations[48],[49] whereas in the middle of the [ascetical] struggles it preserve our gnosis free from vainglory. We must therefore be moderately sorrowed as having been abandoned (so that we be humbled more and submit more to the glory of the Lord), yet occasionally rejoice having been given wing in the good hope.[50] For just as much sorrow envelops the soul in despair and lack of faith, so much joy provokes it to conceit—I am speaking of those who are still in a state of [spiritual] infancy—, for the mean of illumination and abandonment is experience whereas the mean of sorrow and joy is hope.[51] For he says: ‘Being patient, I patiently awaited the Lord and he took heed to me;’ and: ‘In accordance with the multitude of pains in my heart, your consolations have gladdened my soul.’
Just as when they are open the doors of the baths quickly impel the inner warmth towards the outside, thus also the soul, when it wishes to speak much, even if it should say all things well, disperses its own remembrance through the gate of the voice. Whence the soul is thenceforth deprived of seasonable thoughts[52] and speaks the clashing of its thoughts[53] more or less in a mob[54] to those who happen to be there, because henceforward it does not have the Holy Spirit preserving it so that it have an intellect without fantasy. For the Good, being foreign to agitation and every fantasy, ever flees garrulousness. Therefore silence is good in its proper time, being nothing other than the mother of the wisest thoughts[55].

[1] What the author means is that because of the harshness of the passions that he lists, the mind in such a condition is unable, even if it wants, to imprint the words of the Jesus Prayer on its consciousness so that the words become a conscious mental habit imprinted on the ascetic’s consciousness to which the ascetic attends.
[2] I.e. Jesus Christ.
[3] This is a very important, if succinct, description of how through the action of Grace the mind is led to the automatic repetition of the formula of the Jesus Prayer even in sleep.
[4] Greek: Abba o pater. Of course, Abba is the Aramaic familiar term for one’s own father that Jesus himself is recorded in the Gospel as having used for his Heavenly Father.
[5] ‘Prudent anger’: Greek: sophrona thumo. It is hard to convey the nuance of this phrase in context. The author wishes to refer to an anger that is of sound mind, in its senses, prudent, chaste; not an anger that is extreme, uncontrolled or impassioned. There are many repetitions of sophron in its various grammatical forms in this chapter.
[6] ‘In a prudent way’. Greek: sophronos.
[7] I.e. at the Last Judgement.
[8] ‘Wits’: Greek: phrenes. This word is a cognate of sophron, which indeed etymologically is derived from ‘having the wits whole or sound’.
[9] Recall that the author has already established that ‘temperance’ is the common name of all the four virtues. Hence, he is now drawing an extended metaphor between the four virtues and the four-horse chariot on which the Prophet Elias ascended.
[10] ‘The prudent one’. Greek: o sophron.
[11] Greek: aura. This is the word used in the Septuagint not for Elias’ ascension but for the theophany that he experienced on Horeb: God appeared to him there not in the earthquake or storm but in the fine breeze (lepte aura). Whether this is to be taken as an inadvertence on the part of the author or as a subtle allusion depends on the reader’s judgement.
[12] Thus the text.
[13] I.e. by the world.
[14] I.e. the payments are first applied to interest owed and then to principal.
[15] I.e. Since we are showing long-suffering regarding the seizure by others, especially Christians, of our goods rather than preventing it or prosecuting them, if we were to prosecute them, we would supposedly be preventing them from sinning (evidently through fear of a court-case).
[16] This abrupt change from the first to the third person is in the text here and elsewhere.
[17] The text is a little vague. It seems to mean that the court narrowly considers only the specific laws which supposedly apply to the matter at hand whereas the justice of God considers the whole situation, including the whole person involved.
[18] I.e. the author is counselling us to sell our goods and immediately give the money away, not to keep the money ‘for a rainy day’ with the excuse that we want to be able always to fulfil the commandment to help the poor.
[19] Cf. the beginning of Chapter 63.
[20] I.e. through the assiduous practice of the Jesus Prayer.
[21] In this text the charism of theology seems to be the preaching of the Gospel, as the text itself develops.
[22] Greek: kala lian, in an allusion to the Genesis account of Creation (Septuagint).
[23] Greek: allage. The use of this word might seem a little imprecise for someone of St Diadochos’ literary stature, but there is probably a reference here to a phrase in the Septuagint: ‘This change is of the right hand of the Most High.’
[24] I.e. the angels.
[25] I.e. the soul is here treated as the bride of God being led to marriage with God.
[26] Greek: theodous.
[27] The text is a little ambiguous. The author seems to mean that the Holy Spirit, as the leader to God of the soul as bride, harmonizes here on earth the spiritual voice of the soul with that of the angels and Prophets singing the praises of God in Heaven.
[28] This would be the Jesus Prayer. The author is saying that to concentrate the mind on the words of the Jesus Prayer, and especially so with the mind and the words of the Prayer focused in the heart, is actually quite vexing to the mind.
[29] The author is referring to the very concentrated, secret, private and silent practice of the Prayer of Jesus in the heart. Everything is focused there. It is terribly hard.
[30] Greek: euktikes aretes. This should not be understood in a vague sort of way as the moral virtue of praying often (not that that is not a virtue) but specifically as the practice of the Hesychast form of the Jesus Prayer.
[31] Greek: theoremata. This normally refers to a discursive speculative contemplation in the nature of ‘thinking about something using words’, not an intuitive rapture of the mind into God. The author is contrasting the very difficult focused nature of the Prayer of Jesus as practised by the Hesychast he is addressing, and the release of the built-up mental tension of the soul in the practice of the discursive speculative contemplations of theology. Again, however, this theology is already defined by the author as a charism. It is not academic theology.
[32] I.e. let us spend our time.
[33] Greek: theoremata. I.e. speculative theology.
[34] I.e. we will know that the speculative theologian is sound if what he says is sound.
[35] Greek: remata.
[36] Greek: logois.
[37] Greek: theoria. This is direct intuitive sight of spiritual things.
[38] This is the Hesychast’s charism of tears.
[39] Geek: hesychias.
[40] Greek: euche. This would again be the Prayer of Jesus repeated constantly.
[41] Greek: theoremata. These would be speculative contemplations again.
[42] Greek: theoria. This would be intuitive knowledge again.
[43] Greek: euche. The author is referring to a certain high stage in the practice of the Jesus Prayer in Hesychasm.
[44] ‘Spiritual sense’: Greek: aisthese.
[45] Greek: plerophoria.
[46] ‘It’s’. This refers to Grace not to the mind.
[47] ‘Theological soul’. This would refer to the stage of the Hesychast who now enjoys the charism of theology that the author discusses in the previous chapters.
[48] Greek: theoremata. These are the discursive contemplations of theology.
[49] The image here seems to be of dogs let loose with joyous barking on the scent of the quarry.
[50] This sentence is a capsule description of the spiritual state of an advanced Hesychast.
[51] The author is using the schema of traditional Greek philosophy: a virtue is a mean between two extremes.
[52] Greek: ennoion.
[53] Greek: logismon.
[54] ‘More or less in a mob’. This is somewhat difficult to convey. The author is portraying a psychological state of a person who, lacking Grace, no longer can control his thoughts but speaks in a jumble whatever comes into his mind to whoever happens to be standing there. The phrase noted modifies the clashing of the thoughts: the thoughts tumble out more or less in a mob.
[55] Greek: ennoion.

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