Monday, 23 March 2009

Commentary on Diadochos 16 - 29

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

No one is able to love God in [spiritual] perception of heart not having first feared him in all his heart; for being purified and as it were softened through the activity of fear, the soul comes to a love that is set into activity.[1] A person would not be able to come wholly to the fear of God in the way spoken of if he did not come to be outside all the cares of this life. For when the mind comes to be in much stillness and freedom from care, then does the fear of God trouble it, purifying it from every earthly grossness in much [spiritual] perception, so that this fear thus leads it to much love of the goodness of God. So the fear of those who are yet being purified is with a middle degree of love; but perfect love is of those who have been completely purified, in whom there is no fear. For he says: ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ Both degrees are of the righteous only, those who assiduously work the virtues in the activity of the Holy Spirit. And for this reason, in one place Scripture says: ‘Fear you the Lord, all his saints;’ in another place: ‘Love you the Lord, all his holy ones;’—so that we learn clearly that the fear of the righteous who are still being purified is with a middle degree of love, as was said; whereas perfect love is of those who have been purified, in whom there is no longer a thought of fear of any kind, but ceaseless burning and adhesion of the soul towards God through the activity of the Holy Spirit, according to him who says: ‘My soul has adhered behind you; your right hand has helped me.’
This is a very important chapter on the nature of Christian experience of God and on the nature of the Christian road to perfection. The issue is the relation between the fear of God and the love of God, and here the Saint parts company with much of the charismatic movement in the West today. The road to a conscious experience of the love of God is through the full fear of God in our heart. What does the Saint mean? We in the West look for the quick fix, the easy experience, of the love of God. However, the Saints of the Orthodox Church recognized that the road to God is difficult: we have to pass through the conscious experience of the fear of God. This is not merely a transitory experience of the awesomeness of God for an hour on Saturday night at a prayer meeting. The Saint is clear that we cannot attain to this fear of God unless we spend much time in stillness, free from all the cares of this life. There is a purification involved that requires stillness and freedom from care. This purification is achieved through the fear of God, by which we recognize that we are sinners and that God is not only loving but just.
The Saint explains, better than we could, just how the love of God is engendered by the fear of God. He goes on to discuss the relationship between the fear of God and the love of God that the person experiences who is being purified. He makes distinctions in the love of God that the person experiences during his mystical ascent. The important thing to understand is that it is possible to attain to a love of God that is with fear—this is the middle stage—and to a love of God which is without fear—this is the final stage of perfection. The Saint is clear that we cannot attain to perfection without going through the middle stage.
The fear of God as it were circumcises the heart of the ascetic. It cleanses him from his passions, preparing his heart to be a fit receptacle of the love of God—or, if you wish, the Holy Spirit.
Just as, when they are unirrigated land[2] as it were, or even neglected, the wounds which occur to the body do not perceive[3] the medicine brought forth to them by the physician, but, having been cleansed, they then perceive the activity of the medicine and come to rapid healing on account of it, thus also, as long as it is neglected and wholly covered with the leprosy of the love of pleasure, the soul is not able to perceive [spiritually] the fear of God even if someone should unceasingly announce to it the frightful and powerful court of judgement of God. But whenever the mind begins to be purified through great attention, then it perceives [spiritually] the divine fear as a certain medicine of life burning it, as it were, in the activity of reproaches in the fire of dispassion[4].[5] Whence, henceforward being purified part by part, it arrives at the perfection of purification, having been so much increased in love as it is decreased in fear, so that it should finally arrive at perfect love, in which is no fear, as has been said, but complete dispassion set into activity by means of the glory of God. Therefore first let the fear of God be for us as the boast of ceaseless boasts, then, however, love, the fullness of the law of perfection in Christ.
The Saint now proceeds to explain how it is that the fear of God in great stillness purifies the person. He uses a metaphor: the medicines that are brought to a bodily wound. We have translated this sentence as best we can but it seems slightly corrupt because the sense is difficult. What the Saint is saying is that when we are in the world engaged in worldly affairs, we are immersed in the love of pleasure—this is another way of saying ‘our passions’, which we know are eight—and are of necessity largely indifferent to the reality of the Justice of God. This is the common condition of man. But when we enter into stillness—the Saint clearly has in mind Hesychast stillness but he could also mean a good cÅ“nobion—then the soul is purified as in a fire by the action of the fear of God, so that it tends towards dispassion. Note that the author foresees that this is a gradual purification: there is nothing here of being purified in a single experience: the purification takes time.
The soul which has not been freed from worldly cares will neither love God genuinely nor loathe the Devil duly; for it has once and for all an oppressive veil, the care of worldly affairs. Whence, among these sorts of people the mind is unable to know the judgement of itself so that by itself it might without deception try the votes of the judgement.[6] Therefore solitude is always useful.
Here the author explains more about the condition of the person in the world: that person is incapable of loving God truly or hating the Devil truly. The sense is that the person is still enslaved to his passions: to be free of one’s passions is what it means to hate the Devil truly; it means not being attracted to sin any more. The reason is that the care of worldly affairs veils the soul and prevents it from ‘understanding what’s going on’. The Saint now makes a very shrewd remark. Among such people, the person’s conscience is incapable of judging the person’s own condition properly: the conscience simply does not have the clearness to see the person’s own condition properly. This is the beam that Christ says is in our own eye. It is not a matter of seeing another person’s condition; that is the mote that is in the other’s eye: this is the person’s very own condition: in persons who are immersed in worldly affairs, the conscience renders a faulty judgement about the person himself. However, if the person enters into solitude and begins to experience the fear of God he or she can travel the road of purification, at the end of which, he or she will have a conscience which can judge properly his or her spiritual condition, as the author explains in the next chapter. This is what it means top take the beam out of your own eye, so that you will then see clearly to take the mote out of your neighbour’s eye.
The property of a pure soul: abundant word, guileless zeal, unceasing Eros for the Lord of Glory. Then, indeed, the mind sets its own scales exactly, appearing in its own intellect as in a most pure tribunal.[7]
The Saint sketches a portrait of the pure soul: the spiritual beauty of the ability to speak on spiritual matters, of a zeal for God which is free from guile and of an ardent love for the Lord. When a person has arrived at this condition then his or her conscience is able to assess exactly what the person’s own condition is. Here, something should be explained. One might think that the conscience will always bear witness to a person in such a condition that everything is fine, in much the same way that St Paul remarks that his conscience does not condemn him, even though that is not a final justification since only the Lord’s own judgement is final. However, although the person might be in such a condition of spiritual purity, still he might sin. An example might be the Apostle Peter in Acts who after eating with the non-Jews, drew back from eating with them when persons from the Apostle James arrived, so that the Apostle Paul rebuked him publicly for hypocrisy. Another example, more difficult, is the case of an Elder who accepts a vision which is not from God. In such a case, he may lose his clarity of conscience. St Silouan the Athonite testifies to such an experience in his own life. He described the vision to various confessors, who really didn’t tell him anything that he understood as a judgement that he had accepted a delusive vision. However, eventually his conscience bore witness to him that something was wrong—his behaviour was not at all appropriate to his having had a proper vision—and he repented on his own. We never lose free will; we never lose the possibility of sinning. However, what the Saint is saying is that when the person has been properly purified, the conscience will bear witness ‘infallibly’ as to the condition of the person: the person will have a reliable guide in his conscience as to whether he has sinned or not. This is true in most cases but there may be a problem if it is not a matter of morality but an issue of false gnosis (false spiritual knowledge).
Faith without works and works without faith are rejected in the same way. For the faithful must offer to the Lord faith that demonstrates realities. For neither was faith reckoned for righteousness to Abraham our father until he had brought forth its fruit, his son.
The Saint is weighing in on a hoary topic in Protestant apologetics. His position is that we need both faith and works: ‘the faithful must offer to the Lord faith that demonstrates realities’. That is, as St James says in his epistle we should demonstrate our faith in our works. The Saint continues to explain in the next chapter.
He who loves God both believes genuinely and accomplishes the works of faith in a holy manner. He who only believes and does not abide in love does not even have the faith he thinks he has. For he believes with a certain lightness of mind not set into activity by the weight of the glory of love. Faith set into activity by love is the greatest of the virtues.
The first part of this chapter is quite clear. In the case of a person who believes without works, the Saint says that the person believes with a certain superficiality, with a faith that is not set into action by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the presence of spiritual love in the person’s heart. For if the person had such an experience of the love of God, he would not have a dead faith that did not show itself forth in works; he would have a faith that was put into motion by the love present in him, and that is the greatest of the virtues.
Note that what the Saint is saying is not just for the Hesychast in the cave; it is also for the Orthodox in Starbucks drinking his latte.
Investigated, the depth of the sea of faith is turbulent; viewed with a simple disposition it becomes serene. Being the water of Lethe (forgetfulness) of evils, the depth of faith does not bear to be seen by curious thoughts. Therefore let us be filled with its waters in simplicity of intellect so that we thus arrive at the harbour of the will of God.
This is an important chapter. One might consider the episode where Jesus bids Peter come to him on the water. Peter does okay until he doubts. If he had proceeded in simplicity of faith, he would have been able to walk on the water. What the Saint is saying is that when we attempt to penetrate into the depths of our faith, then the only thing we accomplish is to disturb our conscience (in the sense of our conscious experience of ourselves, not in the sense of having moral issues of right and wrong). If however, we have the simple disposition of Peter trusting in God and walking on the water, then our consciousness becomes serene. This is an important indicator for how we should maintain serenity in our own lives as we are walking from our home to Starbucks—or how we should be living in our cave far from Starbucks. The next sentence seems to be something of a non sequitur, but here is what the author means as he continues his metaphor in a somewhat forced way: It is in the nature of faith for us to turn away from the evils in our consciousness so as to turn to God. But because of this tendency, our faith does not bear to be investigated with curiosity. This curiosity is something different from a mature scholarly reflection on the ‘data of faith’. It might be described as ‘idle curiosity’ or ‘meddling’. It is a spiritual condition universally condemned by ascetical writers. Faith does not bear to be meddled with. What it wants is simplicity of consciousness which trusts in God. Here it might be well to remark that St John Chrysostom remarks somewhere that the one great work that God demands of man is faith. This meddling with faith is contrary to this one great work. The difference with mature scholarly reflection is that the sound Orthodox scholar proceeds from faith and does not meddle with his faith while studying the data of Revelation. Note that along this axis, in the Saint’s opinion the goal is the will of God: it is the accomplishment of the will of God which is connected to our faith from the point of view of experiential spiritual psychology.
To summarize, Saint is saying that if we make a movement to meddle with the depths of our conscience so as better to understand, supposedly, the spiritual data of faith—what faith really is as a lived experience in our consciousness—then we will only succeed in agitating our consciousness. However, if we proceed in simplicity then we will arrive at the harbour of God, which is God’s will. The Gospel passage of Peter walking on the water is the key to understanding this.
No one is able either to love or to believe genuinely except if he does not have himself as an accuser of himself. For when our conscience agitates itself in reproaches, the mind is not yet allowed to perceive [spiritually] the odour of the goods above this world but is immediately divided in doubt, on the one hand with a warm movement having an appetite for faith on account of the experience it has already received, on the other hand not yet being able to attain it in [spiritual] perception of heart by means of love on account of, as I said, the prickings of the reproaching conscience. Still, when we purify ourselves with a warmer attention and have had greater experience in God, we will gain what is desired.
The first sentence might be a little difficult for the reader to construe. The saint is saying that if we have a guilty conscience because of something we have done, we are neither able to love genuinely nor able to believe genuinely. The reason the Saint gives is that when our conscience reproaches us continually because of some fault we have committed, then our mind is agitated with doubts. (The mind is not our capacity for reason but the part of us which is capable of perceiving spiritual realities.) On the one hand, our spiritual part has an aspiration for spiritual things on account of the spiritual experience it has already received; on the other hand it cannot attain to those spiritual things on account of the bad conscience. Here it must be remarked that all spiritual writers in the West in the Roman Catholic Church recognize the condition where the person has ‘scruples’: his conscience is agitated by trivial things. In modern psychiatric parlance, the person is obsessive. In such a condition the person is agitated over whether he has put the pencil on his desk in right position or not, whether he has combed his hair properly, whether his tie is perfectly straight and so on. Such persons normally cannot spend much time in solitude because they will not be able to withstand it given their psychological weakness for this sort of thing. However, what the Saint means is that if a person who has been leading a spiritual life and has had spiritual experience commits a serious sin, then he will be in the condition the Saint is describing.
Upon rereading the chapter, we would like to add the following. While what we are saying above seems true, the Saint seems to be pointing more to the situation where the person has begun the spiritual life but has memories of sins committed before he commenced the spiritual life. These memories agitate his conscience. As the Saint points our later, at the beginning of the spiritual life the Holy Spirit normally gives the person some spiritual experience of Grace so that he is motivated to struggle. However, the Saint is saying, although the person has had such introductory experiences and because of them aspires to spiritual things, still he is unable to attain to a spiritual knowledge of spiritual things because of the prickings of his conscience due to his old sins. However, the Saint says, if the person continues—presumably through experiencing the fear of God which purifies his conscience—then he will eventually arrive at the spiritual knowledge that he knows awaits him. Note that in common with all the other saints of the Church, the Saint does not assert that some are born saints and others are born sinners: in this school of thought sinners become saints through travelling a journey of spiritual purification helped by the Holy Spirit. Of course, it should be understood that the Saint, a Bishop, takes for granted a normal attendance on the Mysteries (sacraments) of the Church and guidance by an Elder: he is not only a Bishop but also an Elder discoursing to his disciples on how they are to conduct themselves.
Just as the senses of the body impel us somewhat violently towards those things which appear good, thus once it has tasted the divine goodness the sense of the mind has the custom to guide us towards the invisible goods. For at all costs each has an appetite for its familiar relatives: the soul, as bodiless, the heavenly goods; but the body, as dust, earthly food. We will come without deception into experience of the immaterial sense if with ascetic efforts we indeed refine the material[8].
This chapter is straightforward. If God grants to the ascetic a spiritual experience then the mind, the spiritual part of man, wants to attain to the invisible spiritual goods. If the person has arrived at such a level of spiritual development that he has acquired the spiritual sense, then he himself can rely on this spiritual sense—which is today often called discernment—to guide him to the spiritual goods. This is for the fairly advanced Hesychast, who has had such experience of God that he has acquired the discernment to discriminate the spiritual gold from the spiritual dross. However, it must be understood that even if such a person justly proceeds to trust his own discernment in spiritual matters, he is not infallible. That is why somewhere Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) emphasizes that after the Annunciation the Virgin Mary went immediately to her kinswoman Elizabeth: Elder Sophrony takes it that the Theotokos wished to verify her experience in the discernment of another: the Fathers and spiritual writers consider it best to test important and serious things with others and not to rely on our own discernment. How this works in practice is that an Elder will be guiding souls using his own discernment, but he will guide himself only in ‘routine’ matters, consulting another Elder on important matters concerning himself. He will even consult another Elder if with one of the souls he is guiding he comes across something that he is not sure how to handle: he will send the soul he is guiding to see the other Elder for a ‘second opinion’. This requires humility on the part of the Elder. The soul being guided will rejoice to visit a second Elder.
We might mention a caution here. Elder Paisios (Eznipedes) once remarked to someone that if he went to a whole slew of Elders to ask their opinion, he would end up doing not what they said—for the Elders would not necessarily have the same opinion—but whatever came into his own head. While we should consult others, we should not on the one hand be indiscriminate, consulting just anyone; rather we should only consult sound persons whose opinion we can trust. Moreover, we should not go to a slew of others for their opinion because we will end up not believing any of them but doing what we ourselves want, which is to negate the reason for consulting another person.
To continue with the point the Saint is making in this chapter, when the Apostles are not able to keep watch while he is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus says in the Gospel that the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. The Saint is discussing the tendency of the spirit (which he calls the mind, following Evagrius) to tend to spiritual things whereas the flesh tends to material things such as material food. The solution is for us to refine the flesh through asceticism. The Saint points out that this is how we will arrive at the spiritual sense. The Saint then continues in the next chapter to develop this theme.
The activity of holy gnosis teaches us that the natural sense of the soul is one, but that on account of the disobedience of Adam it thenceforward has been divided in two activities. One activity is simple, coming to occur in the soul from the Holy Spirit, which activity no one is able to know except those who have voluntarily freed themselves from the good things of this life for the sake of the future goods and who have dried up all the appetite of the bodily senses through temperance. Only among these persons can the mind, set into motion on account of the freedom from care, sense healthily in an unspeakable way the divine goodness, whence they then transfer their own joy to the body according to the measure of their own progress, exulting in the confession of love with a certain limitless word. For he says: ‘For my heart has hoped on him and I was helped and my flesh has been made to flourish and I will willingly confess to him.’ For the joy which then actually occurs to the soul and to the body is a reminder of the incorruptible life of the spirit.[9]
The Saint begins by discussing the origin of the spiritual sense. He asserts that the spiritual sense was the endowment of Adam and Eve in Paradise before the Fall. This is the undivided spiritual sense that the Saint speaks of. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience—Original Sin—the sense has been divided into two. What are these two? These are the ‘spirit and flesh’ that the Saint has been discussing. The spirit is to be identified with the spiritual sense and the flesh with the passions which call us to the fulfilment of fleshly desires (gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, anger, accidie (sloth), vainglory and pride). The best way to understand what the Saint goes on to say is that in Paradise Adam and Eve were united to the Holy Spirit, that this presence of the Holy Spirit in them conferred on Adam and Eve the simple spiritual sense, and that the Holy Spirit was lost through their disobedience. Hence, now in man’s post-Fall condition, we can only regain the spiritual sense through acquiring the operation of the Holy Spirit in us. This requires the purification through the fear of God that the author has been discussing. Here in this chapter the author adds that to regain this spiritual sense, we must make a voluntary decision to free ourselves from the good things of this life and through asceticism to dry up the desires of the flesh—the eight passions that we have just listed—for the sake of future spiritual goods. In the next chapter, the Saint proceeds to discuss how this ascetical work is done.
Those who are engaged in ascetic struggles must keep the intellect unwashed by waves so that, discerning the thoughts which run to and fro, the mind put those that are good and sent from God into the treasury of the memory but cast somewhere outside of the store-rooms of nature those that are ill-omened and demonic. For when it is serene, even the sea is seen by those who catch fish up to the very movement of its deep, almost nothing eluding them of the paths of the animals which go through there; but when the sea is agitated by the winds, it hides in the gloominess of the agitation those very things that in the laughter of serenity it has the honour to let be seen. Whence, we then see to be idle the skill of those who contrive the devices for fishing; and it also undoubtedly happens that the contemplative mind suffers this very same thing, and certainly when the depth of the soul is agitated by an unjust anger.
In the first sentence, the author returns to the theme of the necessity of stillness for the ascetic. He takes a position that is not accepted by all Hesychast authors: that the Hesychast is to make a discernment which thoughts to retain and which thoughts to refuse. The School of Sinai takes a somewhat more strict position: that we are to reject all thoughts, since sometimes the demons present an ostensibly good thought as bait so to catch us with the subsequent bad thoughts they proffer. Certainly rejecting all thoughts is suitable to the beginner who has not acquired the discernment, the spiritual sense, that will allow him to discriminate between the spiritual gold and the spiritual dross. In the case of the advanced ascetic who has the spiritual sense, it is certainly true that the School of Sinai would be more relaxed about his accepting thoughts that were 24 karat gold. It should be noted that when we are in a condition of stillness, thoughts present themselves to us and we can accept or reject them. There is a part of us which can assess the thought and accept it or reject it. This is somewhat different from the normal condition of agitation of a soul in the world, where there is no serene contemplating part of the soul that can accept or reject thoughts. This is what the Saint is driving at in his very charming metaphor of fishing. He is saying that when the sea is calm, the fisherman can see to the depths of the sea and discern the fish that are swimming—which ones are worth catching and which are not. But when the sea is agitated by a strong wind, then the fisherman whose art it is to contrive fishing traps must be content to wait for good weather before going fishing. Hence, again the author emphasizes that calmness and stillness are necessary for this sort of asceticism. He then remarks that the agitation that anger brings is going to disturb the conscience and make it much harder to discern the thoughts that pass, especially if the anger is unjust. Here the author, continuing a theme that he has touched on in Chapter 6, departs from other ascetical writers in accepting justified anger on certain occasions—although without rage. Generally other ascetical writers want to avoid anger completely. Perhaps the fact that the author was a Bishop with general pastoral responsibilities brought him round to see things the way he does.
It is of the extremely few to know their own faults precisely, and of those whose mind is never snatched away from the memory of God. For in the same way that when our bodily eyes are healthy they are able to see everything up to the gnats and insects[10] flying through the air but when they are covered by turbidity or certain humours they see only dimly some great thing they encounter and do not perceive with the sense of sight the small things—thus also the soul if by attention it refines the blindness which occurs to it from love of the world and in great thanksgiving unceasingly brings tear upon tear, treating its most trivial faults as the most serious. For he says: ‘The just will confess in your name.’ If, however, the soul persists in the disposition of the world, then if it commits something murderous or worthy of great punishment it senses this tranquilly, not being at all able to take note of the other faults but often considering them to be achievements of a sort, the wretched soul not being ashamed as it warmly recounts them.
The Saint is an excellent psychologist. Here he is discussing in greater detail the spiritual sense and its relation to the conscience of right and wrong. Only the very few know their own faults precisely, those few who have made such spiritual progress that they have not only acquired the spiritual sense but have it ever fixed on the memory of God. Again, the memory of God is not a matter of having ‘good thoughts’ about God in the pious sense, but of having an ability to contemplate God. Recall that the spiritual sense is the ‘eye of the soul’ or ‘eye of the mind’ which allows the ascetic to perceive spiritual things, that it is acquired by engaging in ascetical purification and then through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that it confers discrimination between the spiritual gold and the spiritual dross. Hence, in the advanced ascetic, the spiritual sense is always fixed on God: the ascetic ever spiritually perceives God. As the Psalmist David says, ‘I saw the Lord ever before me; he is at my right hand to guide me.’
The Saint goes on to compare the spiritual sense to the vision of the bodily eyes. When our eyesight is healthy then we see everything, even up to the smallest insects. This corresponds to the condition of being able to discern infallibly the spiritual gold from the spiritual dross. But when our eyesight is unhealthy, then we don’t even see the large objects in front of us. In such a spiritual condition, we don’t even understand our major sins for what they are. The Saint repeats that it is through the ascetical program he is describing that one passes from spiritual blindness to the spiritual sense, adding that tears over even the most trivial faults are necessary (this is an aspect of living the fear of God spiritually—of repenting in the depths of our soul). However, the Saint continues, if the person—even the monk or nun or priest or whatever—persists in a worldly disposition without the interior purification he is describing then not only does that person not regret having committed very serious sins, but he or she even boasts of them as achievements of a sort. One is reminded of rock musicians. The Saint then continues in the next chapter to discuss the nature of the purification that is required.
It is of the Holy Spirit alone to purify the mind. For if the strong man does not enter in and despoil the robber, by no means will the booty be freed. It is therefore obligatory by every means to give repose to the Holy Spirit, especially in the peace of the soul, so that we always have the lamp of gnosis shining in us. For when the Holy Spirit unceasingly flashes like lightning in the treasure-rooms of the soul, not only do all those bitter and dark assaults of the demons become most obvious to the mind but they are extremely weakened, reproached as they are by that holy and glorious light. For this reason the Apostle says: ‘Do not extinguish the Spirit;’ in the sense of: ‘Do not sorrow the goodness of the Holy Spirit by doing evil works or speaking evil, so that you not be deprived of that defending lamp.’ For that which is eternal and vivifying is not extinguished, but its sorrow, that is to say, its aversion, leaves the mind gloomy and without the light of gnosis.
Much of what the author states has dogmatic significance for the understanding of the relation of Orthodox asceticism to non-Orthodox asceticism, including non-Christian asceticism. It is only of the Holy Spirit to purify the mind. Hence the asceticism that the author is describing is only possible to those who have received the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Moreover, we must give repose to the Holy Spirit in every possible way so that we have the Holy Spirit as a lamp of spiritual knowledge shining in us. Recall that this spiritual gnosis is not a matter of propositions about God but of the light of God that shines in the darkness and which the darkness has not overcome. It is with the spiritual sense that we see by the light of this lamp of spiritual gnosis. Western readers might turn to the writings of St Augustine to find a similar discussion, based on neo-Platonism, of the light of God which illuminates the mind and by which the mind sees spiritual realities. This is not a matter of Scholastic logical system building. Hence, the author explains that one aspect of healing our spiritual sight so as to discern with an infallible discernment the spiritual gold from the spiritual dross is to have the spiritual light of the Holy Spirit shining in us, so that we might see all the actions of the demons and so that the demons might even be weakened by the presence of the divine light. Note that the author does not state that the demons will be completely destroyed by the light: that is a matter of the Last Judgement and also a matter of our own free will: we never lose free will; we never lose the capacity to sin; the correlative is that the demons are never completely absent from tempting us. Note also that the operation of the spiritual sight is such that when we discern the operations of the demons and of God in us, we do not have ‘pictures’ in our mind of demons and pictures of angels; we discern the operations of God and the demons in us with a spiritual perception. An Elder once remarked concerning how he received a private revelation: ‘It’s very hard to explain; God illuminates my mind.’ Seeing images of angels and saints and demons is not what the spiritual sense is all about, and persons who begin to see demons and angels and saints thinking that they have attained the spiritual sense should stop immediately. They will go mad if they continue; that is not what it’s all about; what they are doing is extremely dangerous.
The Holy Spirit of God which loves Mankind teaches us that there is one, as I said, natural [spiritual] sense of the soul, since, once and for all, the five [bodily senses] differ according to the needs of our body. On account of the Fall which occurred from disobedience, however, this natural [spiritual] sense of the soul is in the mind divided, in the movements of the very soul. For one part of this natural [spiritual] sense is carried off with the impassioned part of the soul while the other part rejoices at the rational and spiritual[11] movement of the soul, for which reason our mind, when we are sober, has the desire to run towards the heavenly beauties. If we therefore come into the habit of despising the good things in the world we will be able to join the earthly appetite of the soul together with the soul’s rational disposition, the communion of the Holy Spirit dispensing this to us. For if its divinity should not actively illuminate the treasure-rooms of our heart, we would not be able to taste the Good in the undivided [spiritual] sense, that is to say, in an integral disposition.[12]
The author now explains the relation between the original undivided sense that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall, and the duality of our being after the Fall. Because of the Fall, one part of us tends to the spiritual: this is the spiritual part of man, what is called the nous or mind in Greek. In the West, it is known as the created spirit of man. This part aspires to spiritual things. In his condition before the Fall, man had this part dominant and in charge of the bodily senses, which are really one but divided according to the bodily sense organs. In the pre-Fall condition, there were no passions, so there was no desire of the flesh (for any of the eight passions: there was not only no gluttony and fornication, there was no pride). After the Fall, however, part of the soul of man is carried off with the eight passions while there still remains a part of the soul—the mind in the sense given—which aspires to spiritual realities. The author then explains that the rationale for the ascetical program is to free the soul from its enslavement to the eight passions so that the part of the soul that aspires to satisfy the eight passions is joined to the mind, the spiritual part of the soul that is the basis of the spiritual sense. The author, very importantly, asserts that the Holy Spirit dispenses this re-union of the part of the soul which aspires after the eight passions with the part of the soul which aspires after God. For it is only through the illumination of the treasure-rooms of our heart by the Holy Spirit that we can taste God with a now-undivided spiritual sense, in a return to the condition of Adam and Eve in Paradise. In a strikingly modern view, the author holds out the possibility of reintegration of the person into wholeness. The road is the road he is describing, with the final agency given to the action of the Holy Spirit. The author then proceeds in the next chapters to discuss the spiritual sense and the temptations associated with it.

[1] Greek: energoumenen. There is a danger that this might be understood to be ‘active’ as opposed to ‘infused’ love in the Western sense, but within that terminology it is actually ‘infused’. What the author means is an active love that is given to the person by the Holy Spirit once that person has been purified completely through the fear of God.
[2] The Greek isn’t very clear.
[3] Thus the text. We would say, medically, ‘respond to’.
[4] Dispassion: Greek: apatheia.
[5] The Greek text of this part of the sentence is not clear.
[6] I.e. so that by itself the conscience might provide a true judgement of the person’s condition.
[7] I.e. having been completely purified, the conscience gives a true witness to the soul’s condition.
[8] Greek: ulen. I.e. the material body.
[9] I.e. after death.
[10] The Greek word is unclear.
[11] Greek: noeran. Literally, ‘mental, pertaining to the mind or nous’.
[12] The author means that in the post-Fall condition of life, part of the spiritual sense runs after the movements of the impassioned part of the soul while the other part desires the heavenly goods. It is only through the illumination of the innermost chambers of our heart by the divinity of the Holy Spirit that we can return to the pre-Fall condition of tasting the Good with an undivided spiritual sense, that is to say, in a condition of complete personal integration where we no longer are divided between the movements of the impassioned part of the soul and our desire for the heavenly goods. Moreover, we then have the ability with this undivided spiritual sense to discern the good from the bad in spiritual phenomena.

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