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.

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