Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 91 - 95

  Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

One of those who love the Lord with a certain insatiable judgement[1] narrated to me as follows: ‘To me who desired to know it with knowledge,[2] the Good One provided the love of God in much [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance[3]; and I was so much clothed with such an activity[4] that my soul hasted with a certain unspeakable joy and love to go out from the body and depart towards the Lord, and to ignore as it were this very temporal way of life.’ Even if he who in experience <tastes>[5] this love should be insulted or injured by someone a myriad of times (for it happens that he is yet going to have one of these sorts of things to work on with labour) he does not grow wrathful with him but remains as if glued even to the soul of him who has despised or even injured him. He is kindled only against those who come either against the poor or against God (as Scripture says, ‘They speak evil ;’) or who otherwise lead to a certain extent an evil way of life. For he who henceforward loves God beyond himself—or, rather, no longer loves himself but only God—no longer avenges his own honour but wants only the righteousness to be honoured of him who has honoured him in eternal honour.[6] He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but on account of the great experience of divine love henceforth has this disposition as a habit as it were. It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the action of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, in his heart in spiritual perception holding on through the great love to him who is honoured in faith.[7] The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: ‘Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.’ For he who is in the wealth of love, as I said, holding on to God, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.[8]
The intermediate state of divine love prepares us to be not a little sorrowed when because of some quarrel we make someone our enemy by insulting him. Wherefore they[9] never cease to prick our conscience until through much rendering of accounts we lead the one who was insulted back to his previous disposition. Even when one of the people leading a worldly life has unjustly grown wroth with us, the most extreme compunction concerning this matter makes us meditate and take much thought since we have wholly become a stumbling block to someone of this age[10]. Whence the mind even becomes idle in regard to contemplation[11]. For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations[12] unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us. If, then, that person does not want this to happen or, again, has departed from our paths, the word of gnosis thenceforth hastes us to add the character of his face to our own soul in a certain unformed humour[13],[14] thus in disposition to fulfil the law of love in the depth of the heart. For he says:[15] ‘Those who wish to have the gnosis of God must in their own intellect look upon, without choleric conception, even the faces of those who are choleric out of season.’ This having come to pass, the mind is not only faultlessly set into motion as regards theology but will also ascend to the love of God with great boldness of spirit[16], hastening unimpededly from the second step to the first.[17]
To those who are beginning to desire piety ardently the way of virtue seems extremely rough and very gloomy not because it is that sort of thing but because directly from the womb human nature consorts with the range of the pleasures. To those who are able to come to middle of it, the way is shown to be wholly approachable and comfortable, for having been subordinated through the activity[18] of the good, the bad is destroyed by the good habit along with the memory of the irrational passions.[19] Whence, thenceforth the soul gladly passes through the all the paths of the virtues. For this reason, the Lord, introducing us to the road of salvations, says: ‘How narrow and strait is the road leading to the Kingdom and few are they that enter in by it.’ To those who with much intention wish to come forth to the keeping of his holy commandments, he says: ‘For my yoke is good and my load is light.’ Therefore, in the beginning of the struggle it is necessary to work the holy commandments of God with a certain violent act of the will, so that seeing our purpose and effort the good Lord send us a certain act of the will very much ready to serve his glorious wishes.[20] For then: ‘The will[21] is prepared by the Lord;’ so that we unceasingly work the good in a certain great joy. For then, really, we will perceive that: ‘God is he who acts in us both to want and to act beyond expectation.’
In the same way that wax that has not been heated or softened for a long time is not able to accept the seal which has been placed on it, thus neither is a man, unless he be tried by [ascetic] labours and infirmities[22], able to find place for the seal of divine virtue.[23] For this reason the Lord says to the divine Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in infirmity[24].’ And the Apostle himself boasts, saying: ‘Therefore I would rather boast gladly of my infirmities so that the power of Christ dwell upon me.’ And in Proverbs it has been written: ‘The Lord chastises him who he loves; he whips every son whom he receives.’ And the Apostle calls ‘infirmities’ the rebellions of the enemies of the Cross which continually happened to him and to all the saints of that day so that they not be puffed up, as he himself says, at the abundance of revelations—but they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt. But now we call ‘infirmities’ the evil thoughts and the bodily anomalies. For, then, because the bodies of the saints who were struggling against sin were delivered up to deadly tortures and various other afflictions, their bodies were much higher than the passions which have entered into human nature out of sin. Now, however, because the peace of the Churches[25] is multiplied on account of the Lord, it is necessary on account of this that the body of the strugglers of piety be tried by means of continual anomalies, and their soul by means of wicked thoughts—and certainly among those in whom gnosis is active in every [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance—so that they both be able to be beyond every vainglory, or vain imagining even, and by means of the great lowliness be able to find space in their hearts, as I said, for the seal of the beauty of God, according to the saint who said: ‘For the light of your Face has been stamped upon us, O Lord.’ Therefore, giving thanks, we must await the counsel of the Lord.[26] For the continuality of the sicknesses and the battle against the demonic thoughts will be reckoned for us to the account of a second martyrdom. For he who at that time said to the holy martyrs by means of those lawless rulers, ‘Deny Christ; long for the glories of this present life!’ even now stands against them in person unceasingly saying the very same things. He who at that time pained the bodies of the righteous and insulted to the utmost the teachers of honour through those ministering to those diabolical habits of thought—that very same one even now leads the various passions against the confessors of piety with many insults and acts of contempt, and certainly when for the sake of the glory of the Lord they help the poor who are extremely afflicted. For that reason it is necessary to work with sureness and patience on the martyrdom of our conscience before the Lord. For he says: ‘Waiting patiently, I patiently awaited the Lord and he took heed to me.’
Humility is a hard thing to procure. For in the measure of its greatness, that much it is attained with many struggles. It comes to those who participate in holy gnosis in two ways: First, when he is in the intermediate stage of spiritual experience, then either on account of infirmity of the body, or on account of those who show enmity to those who take care for what is right, or on account of evil thoughts, the struggler of piety has a somewhat lowlier habit of thought. Second, when the mind is illuminated in much [spiritual] perception and inner [spiritual] assurance by Divine Grace, then the soul has humility as it were as a natural attribute. For fattened by the divine goodness, it is no longer able to be puffed up by the pretension of ambition and, even if it unceasingly works the commandments of God, it considers itself lower than all men on account of the fellowship of the divine forbearance. The first humility most often has sorrow and discouragement; the second, joy with an all-wise respect for others. Wherefore, as I said, the first humility comes to those who are in the middle of the struggles but the second is sent down to those who are approaching perfection. On account of this, the first is often reproached by the successes of this life,[27] while the second neither perceives in any way the terrible arrows of sin nor is shaken even if someone were to offer it all the Kingdoms of the world—for being wholly spiritual it completely ignores bodily glories. To come into the second humility it is in every respect necessary that the [ascetic] struggler come by means of the first. For unless Grace by means of the first humility first softens our free will in the application of the pedagogic passions—voluntarily and not by necessity[28]—it will not grant us the splendour of the second humility.

[1] Greek: gnome. As we remarked previously, this word has to do with judgement leading to intention. In part it means the ‘intellectual attitude’ or ‘opinion’ on the basis of which one acts.
[2] Greek: gnostos gnonai. Thus the text. The author is emphasizing the desire to know consciously the love of the Lord.
[3] Greek: plerophoria.
[4] Greek: energeia, as elsewhere in this and other chapters.
[5] ‘<Tastes (geuomenos)>’. Reading this on the basis of context and the author’s style instead of the text ‘becoming (genomenos)’.
[6] Thus the text.
[7] The author means that this condition of the experience of divine love unites the ascetic to God in the ascetic’s heart so that for the duration of the experience of being united to God he is beyond faith.
[8] Greek: potho. Here, this seems to mean affective ecstasy. The chapter is describing an advanced stage of mystic union. This chapter is difficult to render so that it reads easily and clearly but we have wanted to tamper as little as possible with such an important description of mystical union.
[9] The text does not have a referent for this verb. Perhaps it is the demons.
[10] I.e. the world.
[11] Greek: theorias.
[12] Greek: theoremata.
[13] Greek: chumati. This is one of the four humours, but as applied to the soul, not a matter of ‘humour’ as jokes or ‘humour’ as disposition.
[14] The text is a little difficult here. What the author means is that if we cannot be reconciled with the other party then, even if we are not at fault at all, we should introduce his face into our soul in a certain vague way so as to have it before us in love when we are praying. This does not seem to be a prescription to engage in visualization exercises but rather to keep the ‘idea’ of the person in our heart.
[15] This is not a passage of Scripture, nor do any of the other editors or translators provide a citation. We are not aware of any work containing this passage.
[16] ‘Boldness of spirit’: parrisia. This is the good boldness before God.
[17] I.e. from the intermediate degree of love being discussed in this chapter to the first degree of love discussed in the previous chapter and elsewhere.
[18] Greek: energeia. It should be remarked that energeia is a philosophical concept having to do with the metaphysical nature of action. It doesn’t have the moral contextualization that we might suppose. That is, when the author writes that that something happens through the activity or energeia of the good, he doesn’t mean that it happens because we go to Church on time and so on and so forth—not that we shouldn’t—but that metaphysically something has an ontological activity—here, the good, including good practices—that has an effect, in the way we speak today in a different metaphysics, of cause and effect. Energeia is an ontological not a moral concept. It means the action of something being what it is essentially; the concept is of course related to entelechia. Entelechia is what something is when it’s what it’s supposed to be: it is the perfection of the instantiation of an essence. Energeia is what something does, above all, when it is in its entelechia.
[19] The author means that for those who have attained to the middle of the way of virtue, it is shown to be accessible and comfortable because the bad—which the author has already remarked does not exist substantially—is destroyed by the good habit (here he uses the word ‘custom’) together with the memory of the pleasures of procreation.
[20] Greek: thelemasi. This is the same word that we have been translating ‘acts of the will’. The author is fond of this sort of repetition of a word and its cognates.
[21] Greek: thelesis. The author does not use the language of ‘faculties’, which is a much later Western approach, but thelesis is the will as a faculty and thelema something willed by the thelesis.
[22] Greek: astheneion.
[23] Elder Paisios (1924 – 1974) is said to have remarked that he received more spiritual benefit from his illnesses than from his (considerable) ascetic labours.
[24] Greek: astheneia.
[25] Greek: ekklesion.
[26] I.e. in our afflictions.
[27] The author means that an ascetic in the middle of the ascetic struggles is often damaged in his corresponding degree of humility when he chances to have some worldly success—say by publishing a book on spirituality.
[28] This seems to mean that it is not merely a matter of long-suffering: the ascetic must accept his sufferings.

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