Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Commentary on Diadochos 37 - 55

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

The dreams that appear to the soul in the love of God are undeceiving accusers of that soul which is to a certain extent healthy. For that very reason they[1] are neither transformed from one shape to another,[2] nor do they suddenly shake the [spiritual] sense, nor do they laugh or suddenly take on a gloomy air, but they approach the soul with every clemency, completely filling it with every spiritual gladness. Whence, once the body has awoken the soul seeks the joy of the dream with great longing. But the fantasies of the demons are in every respect the opposite. For they[3] neither remain in the same shape nor show for very long an undisturbed form. For that which they do not have of their own free will but only make use of from their own deception is unable to suffice them for very long;[4] moreover, they also say grandiose things and very often threaten, often shaping themselves into the appearance of soldiers; occasionally they chant to the soul with shouting. Whence, once it has been purified, recognizing them clearly the soul that has been subjected to the fantasy awakens the body;[5] there is also the case where it even rejoices at having been able to recognize clearly the ruse of the demons. For which reason, having reproached the demons in the very dream, the soul moves them to a great anger.[6] Yet there is also the case where the good dreams do not bear joy to the soul but create in it a sweet sorrow and painless weeping. This occurs to those who make great progress in humility.
The author writes ‘the dreams that appear to the soul’ if we assume that the text is not corrupt at the word rendered ‘dreams’. What he really means, as is evident from the text, is ‘the images of persons that appear to the soul in dreams’. What is at issue here is the discernment of the origin of dreams. In the late Antique Age, some dreams were thought to have a supernatural origin, as is obvious from such authors even as Homer. Hence, the issue for the author is how to assess the origin of a particular supernatural dream that we have had. That is not to say that all dreams are supernatural in origin, as the author himself goes on to say in the next chapter.
First of all, the author takes the position that a good supernatural dream—a dream from God or an angel—will first of all tend to accuse the (impure) soul. It will not necessarily bring consolation to the soul.
Next, he introduces a very important criterion of the recognition of demonic activity in dreams. The demons are continually changing form. A good dream will not have this characteristic: the images in the dream of persons (perhaps of angels; perhaps of saints) who are having a dream with a good supernatural origin will be stable. The instability of the demons in dreams can be experienced in the hypnagogic reverie that we discussed earlier.
The next point that the author makes is that dreams with a good origin will not disturb or shake the spiritual sense. Since the demons are intrinsically opposed to God, the Holy Trinity, their presence can only disturb or agitate or shake the spiritual sense. This is a second important criterion for the discernment of demonic activity, not only in dreams but in other spiritual contexts: the demon always brings agitation or disturbance—although sometimes in very subtle ways that the inexperienced might not understand to be demonic.
Next the author asserts that the figures in dreams of a good supernatural origin do not laugh or suddenly take on a gloomy air. One might think of it this way: if the dream is of good supernatural origin, then it is blessed by God. In such a case, the figures in the dream will act according to the grace of the Holy Spirit. They will neither laugh—something very seldom associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit although not completely excluded in certain rare cases—nor be gloomy. Instead, the author says, in keeping with the nature of the Holy Spirit the figures in a dream with a good supernatural origin approach the soul with every clemency (recall that one of the most important images for the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the dove) completely filling it with spiritual gladness (recall that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter).
The author then describes in more detail the actions of demons in dreams. The demons do not maintain the same form for very long; following Evagrius the author explains that since they are only borrowing (or, imitating) the forms that they manifest, they cannot be satisfied with those borrowed forms for long.
The author continues that the demons are often aggressive and threatening, often gross and given to ‘shouting’—to aggressive excess of all kinds. The Fathers treat the demons as fallen minds. Hence what the author is describing is how these fallen minds present themselves to a person who is having a dream.
The author goes on that once the soul has been purified (where one of the main means of purification is the fear of God in stillness), then within the dream the soul recognizes the demons and awakens the body. Indeed, the soul may even rejoice at having seen through the ruse of the demons. The author is clearly writing from personal experience.
The author goes on to point out that the soul may rouse the demons to great anger by its reproaches of them within the dream. Here we have a dream universe which the author, in common with the Fathers, takes to have a real substrate that is more than just the unconscious complexes of the person dreaming. Real fallen minds appear to the soul in the dream while the body is sleeping; the soul reproaches those demons; the demons are moved by these reproaches to great anger.
The author ends by describing another situation where the dream is from a good supernatural origin: the dream bears ‘sweet sorrow and painless weeping’, this happening in the case of those who have made great progress in humility.
The author goes on in the next chapter to make a very serious point about dreams.
We ourselves have said what we have heard from those who have come to experience: the discernment of good from bad dreams. For the sake of great virtue, however, let it be sufficient for us not to be in any way persuaded by any fantasy at all. For dreams are for the most part nothing other than the phantoms of deluded thought or again, as I said, the mockery of demons. So if sometime there would be sent to us a vision from the goodness of God and we did not accept it, our most longed-for Lord Jesus would not grow angry with us on account of this. For he knows that we come to this on account of the ruses of the demons. For the aforesaid discernment is exact but it also happens that through the plundering of something imperceptible the soul which has been made filthy—no one is exempt from this, I think—loses the trace of exact discernment and believes in things which are not good as if they were good.
The author says that he is transmitting what he has heard concerning the discernment of good dreams from bad dreams. He clearly thinks his disciples should know what he has written in the previous chapter. But he also thinks that the more prudent course for them is not to trust any dream at all. This is sound advice in our day and age too.
The author now shows that he is not a deluded freak from the Fifth Century: he is clear that dreams are for the most part ‘phantoms of deluded thought’—that is, garbage washed up onto the shore of consciousness from our unconscious—or even demonic mockery. In the case that God actually sends us a vision in a dream, the prudent thing, he says, is not to accept it. God will not mind, because he realizes that we are afraid of being deceived by demons. Sound advice. Usually today, the person having a dream that he thinks might be of good supernatural origin mentions the dream to his Elder and does exactly what his Elder says to do about it.
The author then makes a very shrewd remark: the previous chapter contained an exact description of the discernment of supernaturally good from supernaturally bad dreams, but sometimes we do not have the spiritual sense in perfect working condition because of a fault which is imperceptible to us, so that we are liable to believe in things which are not to be believed, to our cost. This is very important. Don’t believe in dreams. You’re going to end up in the mental hospital.
As an example of this, let there be for us the servant who is hailed by night by his master from in front of the yard of the house after a long absence abroad. To whom the servant absolutely refuses the opening of the doors. He has been frightened lest, plundering him, the similarity of voice prepare him to become betrayer of the things that were entrusted by the master. With whom his lord is not angry once it has become day but finds him worthy of many praises, for he thought that even the voice of the master was a deception, not wanting to lose any of the master’s goods.
This seems straightforward.
It must not be doubted that when the mind begins densely to be acted upon by the divine light it becomes somewhat transparent so that it richly sees its own light, and [it must also not be doubted] that this word will come to pass when the mind has dominated the passions. That whatever appears to the mind with shape[7], either as light or as fire, occurs through the evil art of the Enemy, the divine Paul teaches us clearly, saying that he[8] is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore one must not undertake the ascetic life with this hope, so that Satan not find the soul ready for plunder on account of it, but only so that we arrive at loving God in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance of heart, which very thing is the ‘with the whole heart and with the whole soul and with the whole intellect’. For he who is acted upon by divine Grace to this degree departs from the world even if he should still be present in the world.
This is a very important chapter. The author is clear that it is with a spiritual sight that the advanced ascetic begins to see the spiritual light of his own mind. The author then remarks, following Evagrius, that this can only occur when the mind has dominated the passions—when it is no longer enslaved to its emotional tendencies to sin. The author now repeats himself that this spiritual vision of the light of one’s own mind, and by extension this spiritual vision of the light of God, has nothing to do with shapes that the mind might see of light or fire. These, he says, are deceptions of the Devil. He refers to the Apostle Paul’s remark that even Satan is transformed into an angel of light.
The author now goes on to make a very serious point. If we begin the spiritual life expecting visions we are as it were advancing into battle without weapons and without a shield. The only thing we can expect is to be slaughtered by the enemy, the demons. They will be only too happy to provide us with a supermarket full of false visions, as an Athonite Elder has once remarked. This quest for ‘spiritual experience’ is the temptation of beginners, and a serious one for those of us who do not have an Elder to guide us on a daily basis. We have to change our way of thinking so that we do not orient ourselves to visions—and certainly when we think that we are deserving of such visions because of our great importance. As another Athonite Elder once remarked, God cannot stand the conceited soul and he allows it to be overtaken by spiritual disaster from the demons that provide it with false visions and revelations. This is the road of disaster and it is very difficult for someone who has fallen in this way to be healed.
Instead, the author says, we must aim to love God in full spiritual assurance of heart. This is not a sensible experience. It is a spiritual assurance. Moreover, the author says, to the extent that the person increases in this love of God in spiritual assurance, to that extent he departs from this world—not in such madness as astral projection; that is not what the author means; but by being loosed from spiritual attachment to this world.
Here it must be said that it might be difficult to understand just what the difference is between the two approaches to the spiritual life. In this case, the only solution is for us to humble ourselves. If at all possible we should find an Elder who can guide us and form us spiritually, so that we proceed on the right spiritual road.
Two things which are quite dangerous: To think that we beginners have spiritual charisms that make us great, just so long as we find an Elder to iron out the few small details. To think that we have the right to make spiritual progress. The only right we have is to repent and to love God and our neighbour.
The author goes on to explain how the beginner avoids the trap he has been discussing, in the next chapter.
Obedience is known to be the first good among all the introductory virtues, for, to begin with, it sets aside our conceit, and then it begets in us humility. Whence it also becomes a gate of love in God among those who gladly sustain it. Having set this aside, Adam slipped away into the Tartarean deep. Having, in the word of the Dispensation[9], loved this up to the Cross and death, the Lord was obedient to his own Father (and this even though he was in no way less than the Father’s greatness), so that having paid in full[10] the crime of Mankind’s disobedience through his own obedience he lead again to the blessed and eternal life those who have lived in obedience.[11] Therefore those who sustain a battle against the conceit of the Devil must first take a care to obedience, for as we progress it will show us without deception all the paths of the virtues.
It is clear that the author thinks that the primary virtue of the beginner is obedience. Since he surely does not mean ‘obedience of the beginner to him- or herself’, he must mean that the beginner should have a guide. The author gives a very important reason why the beginner should start with obedience: obedience sets aside our conceit and begets humility in us. If you don’t have humility on the spiritual path, you are a disaster waiting to occur. The only solution is to enter into obedience. St John of Sinai has much on the spiritual life at this level, in the Ladder of Divine Ascent. The author continues with a discussion of the salvific role of obedience in the Life of Christ, in contradistinction to the disaster that disobedience wrought in the life of Adam and Eve and thus the whole human race.
Temperance is the common title of all the virtues. Therefore he who is keeping temperance must be temperate in everything. For just as whatever smallest member of a man that is removed disfigures the whole of the man, however insignificant the part that is missing from the figure, thus he who neglects one of the virtues loses the whole dignity of temperance in a way that he does not know. One must therefore apply himself not only to the bodily virtues but also to those which are able to purify our inner man. For what profit is it to someone who keeps the body in virginity if the soul has committed adultery with the demon of disobedience? Or how will he who has refrained from gluttony and every bodily desire but who has not taken a care to conceit and ambition, neither sustained a slight affliction, be crowned when the scales will counterbalance the light of justice to those who are practising the works of justice in a spirit of humility?[12]
To understand this chapter, we must grasp that the author is speaking to a milieu where there was a great emphasis on bodily asceticism, primarily fasting. What he is trying to argue is that the person who is temperate in a bodily way—that is, exercises self-control in a bodily way—must also exercise more spiritual virtues in order to get anything out his bodily asceticism.
Those engaged in ascetic struggles must take a care to hate all the irrational desires in such a way as to acquire hatred for them as a habit; however, it is necessary to preserve temperance in regard to foods in such a way that one does not ever come into a loathing for any of them, for this is both accursed and completely demonic. For we do not abstain from any of them because they are wicked—may it not be so!—but so that, breaking ourselves off from the many and good foods, we moderately mortify the inflamed parts of the body, and, further, so that our abundance become a sufficient provision for the poor, which very thing is the identifying mark of true love.
The Saint is arguing for a moderate bodily asceticism: not because the irrational desires are good but because we must never come to believe that any food is in itself bad (this is a dogmatic error) do we engage in only a moderate bodily asceticism so as to mortify the desires of the flesh. Moreover, he says, exercising a moderate bodily asceticism gives us something left over to give to the poor, which is a sign of true Christian charity.
To eat and drink from all those things which are served or mixed,[13] giving thanks to God, in no way battles against the rule of gnosis,[14] ‘for all things were exceedingly good.’ To abstain willingly from the tasty and the many is both most discerning and more gnostic,[15] for we would not willingly despise the tasty foods which are present if we have not tasted the sweetness of God in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance.
Here the author again insists that we are not to refuse foods because they are bad (unless, of course, we have a medical problem which prevents us from eating a certain food). However, he says, to abstain willingly from tasty foods and from eating in great quantities is more spiritual. St John of Sinai, the author of the Ladder, had this approach: a great Hesychast, when he was the Abbot of St Catherine’s in Sinai he ate from all the foods provided for in the monastic typikon, but very little. This also helps humility because it prevents an arrogant ‘I don’t eat such foods because I am too spiritually advanced’ attitude.
In the same way that weighed down by a multitude of foods the body makes the mind to be somewhat timid and slow-moving, so, weakened by much temperance, the body renders the contemplative part of the soul[16] gloomy and indisposed to letters. It is therefore necessary to prepare the foods in accordance with the movements of the body, so that when the body is healthy it be mortified appropriately but when it is weak it be fattened moderately. For he who is waging ascetic struggles should not weaken the body [completely], but only so much that it will still be able to suffice for the struggle, so that even in labours of the body[17] the soul might be appropriately purified.
Here the Saint is arguing that just as there is excessive eating, there is also excessive fasting. We must tailor our ascetical program to our actual bodily and spiritual condition.
When vainglory is greatly inflamed against us, finding a pretext for its own evil in the sojourn of certain brothers or of any strangers at all, it is good to permit the moderate relaxation of the customary diet. For then we will send the demon[18] away not having accomplished anything and rather mourning the endeavour; moreover, we will fulfil the institution of love in an acceptable way while we will, by means of the condescension, preserve the mystery of temperance free from ostentation.
Let us suppose that today’s Bishop of Photiki comes by our Hesychasterion. Rather than insist on maintaining our customary ascesis, which can lead to vainglory because we are pretending to be great monks in front of the Bishop, we should relax our customary rule of fasting and eat foods with the Bishop that are more suitable to the Bishop’s status.
Fasting has a boast in itself but not towards God, for it is a tool which trains in chastity those who wish. Therefore those who struggle for piety should not think great things of fasting but should await in the faith of God our completion of the goal, for no masters at all of any of the arts boast of the results of their profession from the tools, but each of them awaits the final form of the endeavour so that from that the exactness of the art be exhibited.[19]
The author is here insisting that fasting is a tool to control bodily desire, not an end in itself.
In the same way that the earth, moderately watered, sends forth pure and greatly increased the seed which has been sown in it, but, becoming drunk from the many rains, bears only thistles and thorns, thus also the land of the heart, if we should make moderate use of wine, gives forth pure its natural seeds and brings forth greatly thriving and very fruitful that which has been sown in it by the Holy Spirit, but if it should become soaked from much drinking it really bears all its thoughts as thorns and thistles.
This is not an attitude which has taken complete hold among ascetics. Generally they completely avoid drinking, but there are certainly exceptions.
When our mind swims in the wave of much drinking, it not only sees in its sleep the impassioned phantoms figured by the demons but moulding in itself certain fine apparitions also makes ardent use of its own fantasies as loved ones of a sort. For when the organs of intercourse are warmed by the heat of the wine, there is every need for the mind to present to itself a voluptuous shadow of the passion. Therefore, making use in moderation we should avoid the damage from excess. For when the mind does not have the pleasure dragging it down to paint the picture of sin, it remains completely without fantasy and, what is better, without effeminacy.
The author is giving a penetrating psychological analysis how it is that excessive drinking leads to nocturnal emissions. The author also thinks that effeminacy is a result of excessive drinking. What could be understood here is the author’s analysis of the interior disposition of the mind of someone who is drunk: effeminacy is a lack of spiritual sobriety—something masculine—connected to the presence of fantasies in the mind.
All the manufactured drinks, which nowadays are called aperitifs by the artisans of this invention, on account of the fact, so it seems, that they guide the multitude of foods into the stomach, must not be pursued by those who wish to mortify the parts of the body that swell. For not only does the quality of these things become damaging to the ascetically struggling bodies, but their absurd manufacture itself also wounds the God-bearing conscience. For what is it that is lacking in the nature of wine, then, that by the mixture of various condiments its firmness should be made effeminate?
The author thinks that aperitifs and liqueurs are effeminate and conducive to over-eating. Moreover it is clear that he thinks that they have a bad effect in regard to the control of bodily desire. Moreover, he says, their manufacture is not something that is borne witness to in the conscience by the Holy Spirit. As they say—it’s not a monastic sort of thing to do to manufacture such concoctions.
Our Lord and Teacher of this our sacred way of life, Jesus Christ, was given vinegar to drink in the Passion by the ministrants of the diabolical commands so that, it seems to me, he leave us a clear model of the [proper] disposition towards the sacred [ascetic] struggles. For those who are struggling against sin must not make use of tasty food and drink but rather sustain the bitterness of the [ascetic] struggles. Let the hyssop also be added to the sponge of contempt so that the figure of our purification be brought into the model perfectly. For acridity is the property of struggles whereas that which purifies[20] is at all events the property of perfection.
This extended metaphor seems rather strained. What the author wants to say is that those who are struggling for virtue should indeed avoid tasty food and drink and rather put up with the bitterness and difficulty of asceticism. Moreover, we must also experience contempt and other such things so that our soul be purified in addition to our body. There is a purification that the ascetic must go through to attain to God in the spiritual assurance that the Saint has discussed; this is symbolized by bitterness and acridity not by sugar and tasty food and spiced liqueurs.
Let no one proclaim that going to the bath[21] is sinful or absurd; however, I say that to abstain from this is both manly and most prudent. For then neither does that pleasurable moisture render our body effeminate nor do we come into recollection of that inglorious nakedness of Adam, so that we take a care to the leaves of Adam so as to cover the second-rate excuse of shame;[22] and certainly we who have just jumped out of the utter destruction of worldly life ought to unite the purity of our body to the beauty of chastity.
The Saint makes the point that there is nothing dogmatically wrong with washing but that it is better for us to avoid bathing so as to avoid effeminacy. Nowadays, various Elders have various views on this subject, ranging from a bath once a week to no bathing at all. It is true that as the person becomes more purified and more spiritual he has less need of bodily baths. However, it is also true that those of us who are not so spiritual will be difficult to be around unless we wash every so often.
There is nothing that impedes calling doctors in the time of illnesses. For since at some time the art was going to be gathered by human experience,[23] for that reason the medicines also pre-existed. Still, we must not have our hope of healing in doctors but in our true Saviour and Physician, Jesus Christ. I say these things to those who are accomplishing the goal of temperance in cœnobia[24] and in cities, on account of the fact that due to conditions they are unable to have the ceaseless activity of faith [working] through love, and moreover so that they not fall into vainglory and the temptation of the Devil. For some of these proclaim among the many that they have no need of doctors. If someone should be accomplishing the life of solitude in more deserted places among two or three brothers with the same way of life, then let him bring himself in faith only to the Lord, him who heals our every illness and infirmity, whatever sort of illnesses he should fall into at all. For after the Lord, he has the wilderness as sufficient consolation for the illnesses. Whence, neither does such a person ever lack the activity of faith, and certainly since, making use of the wilderness as a good screen, neither does he find anywhere to exhibit his virtue of patient endurance.[25] For because of this, ‘The Lord makes solitaries to dwell in a house.’
The point that the author is making is that ascetics who live in the city or in cœnobia do well to make use of the services of a physician when they are ill. Among other things this prevents them from falling into vainglory over their supposed lack of need for human medical care. Along these lines, Elder Porphyrios once remarked that some people who came to him wanted to be healed only by a miracle; they were too vainglorious and proud to go to a human doctor. However, the author also points out that the ascetics who are in the city or in cœnobia do not have the spiritual attainment necessary to be able to dispense with human medicine. However, the Saint says, those who are living as hermits should turn to the Lord and place all their hope in him. That is good in this case, the author says, for the following reasons. The first reason: the hermit has the wilderness as consolation after the Lord. The author clearly thinks that living in nature is very consoling to the spirit. Given that there was much less difference between the city and the forest in his day than today, how much more true is this today if the hermit is living in the true wilderness? Next reason: the hermit has the spiritual attainment to be able to turn directly to Christ with his affliction. Next reason: the affliction allows the hermit to exercise the virtue of patient endurance. The author then concludes with the point that because of the virtue of patient endurance that the hermit exercises the Lord makes him to dwell in a (spiritual) house: what the author is implying is that the hermit becomes united to the Lord in a union that the hermit senses with the spiritual sense on account of his patient endurance.
When we are greatly disgusted with the bodily anomalies that occur to us,[26] it must be known that our soul is still enslaved to the desires of the body. For just that reason the soul, longing for material well-being, does not wish to depart from the good things of life but also considers it a great lack of leisure not to be able, on account of the illnesses, to make use of the fine things of life. But if with thanksgiving the soul accepts the troubles that arise from the illnesses, it is known not to be far from the boundaries of dispassion, whence it even then accepts death with joy, as being, rather, the occasion of true life.
Let us suppose that we have become paralyzed in an accident. We cannot take care of ourselves. What the author is saying is that in this and similar cases if we are disgusted by our condition then our soul is still enslaved to our passions: our soul still longs for well-being of the flesh and not for spiritual attainment. If, however, our soul attains to a condition where it even gives thanks for the bodily paralysis, say, then the soul is close to the boundaries of dispassion. And the author has already explained that dispassion, the liberation of the soul from the domination of the passions, is the foundation of the spiritual sense which unites the ascetic to God in a conscious way. Moreover, because of the dispassion, the soul even accepts death with joy, realizing that bodily death is the gate to spiritual life.
The soul would not desire to depart from the body unless its disposition towards this air become without quality to it.[27] For all the senses of the body are opposed to faith, since the former occur in connection with present things while the latter proclaims only the extravagance of future goods. It therefore befits the struggler in asceticism never to recall certain trees with fine branches, or arbours, or fine-flowing fountains, or various meadows, or comely houses or discussions with relatives, neither then to remember honours which might have occurred at the festivals, but to make use of necessary things with thanksgiving and to consider life to be a foreign road bereft of every fleshly disposition.[28] For only thus, wholly restricting our very intellect, might we return to the trace of the eternal road.[29]
What the author means (assuming that ‘air’ is not a corruption for ‘life’) is that the soul will not reach the very holy state of desiring to depart from the body to be with Christ unless it first loses all its attachment to this life. For, the author says, faith is opposed to the senses and the passions of the body: the body is for the here and now; the faith of the soul is for the hereafter. Therefore, it does not do for the ascetic to spend his time thinking about the fine things of this life, including gardens and parks and relatives, that he has left behind in order to engage in the life of asceticism.
Moreover, as the rest of the chapter makes clear, the author is aiming his discussion to the Hesychast who is able to contemplate God and giving him instructions on how to keep his mind on the contemplation of God, not letting it wander to thoughts of a more earthly nature. We point this out in the footnotes to this chapter. The author in the next chapter continues with instructions to the Hesychast who is able to contemplate God on how to avoid dispersing his contemplation through the sight of earthly beauties.

[1] I.e. the personalities in the dream.
[2] It is a staple of Christian demonology that the demons cannot maintain the same form very long but are always being transformed from one shape to another.
[3] I.e. the demons.
[4] This is a key characteristic of the demons: because, for example, they do not have virtue they can only present the appearance of virtue on the basis of their own delusion. But this masquerade cannot suffice them for very long, so they change shape and appearance. This characteristic is expressed by saying that what is demonic is ‘anhypostato’—lacking in substantial existence. In Greek philosophy this is the opposite of having a substantial existence as an essence instantiated in matter.
[5] Once the soul is purified, then in sleep it both recognizes the onslaught of the demons in the dream and awakens the sleeping body because of it. Sometimes it even rejoices at having found out the ruse of the demons.
[6] I.e. in the dream itself the mind converses with the demons—fallen angels with actual personality—and by reproaching them provokes them to great anger.
[7] Greek: schema. This means ‘shape, form or figure’.
[8] I.e. Satan.
[9] Given that he continues with a quotation from Paul, the author seems to mean ‘according to the New Testament’.
[10] Greek: eklusas. This verb takes on a variety of meanings and our rendition should not be taken as establishing St Diadochos’ position on the nature of Christ’s redemptive act on the Cross.
[11] The author’s intended audience is persons living or desiring to live the monastic life of asceticism.
[12] The Greek isn’t entirely clear. However, he is clearly referring to the Last Judgement.
[13] It is difficult to convey it simply, but in St Diadochos’ day foods were served and drinks—especially wines—were mixed.
[14] I.e. the monastic rule, whose goal is gnosis.
[15] More gnostic. Greek: gnostikoteron. I.e. showing more experience of gnosis.
[16] This is the mind.
[17] I.e. in manual labour.
[18] I.e. the demon of vainglory.
[19] The author has in mind the sculptor, say, who does not boast of his hammer and chisel, but waits to see the final result of his art, so that from the final product the exactness of his representation might be demonstrated (recall that in the ancient world, the artist attempted to portray nature, not to create an autonomous work of art divorced from nature, as today).
[20] I.e. the hyssop. The author’s metaphor is not completely clear.
[21] While this chapter was written at a time when the baths were public—with all the potential for scandal that that entailed—it clearly applies to more modern conditions where the bath might be more private.
[22] This expression is unclear as regards ‘second-rate’.
[23] The author has in mind the plants that anciently were collected for use in medicine. He is saying that since this was going to happen, God made sure that the appropriate plants pre-existed.
[24] I.e. monasteries.
[25] I.e. the wilderness acts as a good screen between the hermit and the world, hiding him from others, and the illness allows him to exhibit his virtue of patient endurance which he would not otherwise be able to exhibit because of his isolation.
[26] I.e. in an illness, especially a terminal illness such as cancer.
[27] I.e. the soul would not wish to depart from the body unless it loses its taste for the very air of this life.
[28] I.e. every fleshly psychological orientation.
[29] This is an instruction for the advanced Hesychast to keep his mind on the contemplation of God, not letting it wander to thoughts and memories of earthly beauties and honours.

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