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.

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