Monday, 4 May 2009

Commentary on Diadochos 79 - 87

 Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

Satan, as I said, is expelled from the soul by means of Baptism, but it is permitted to him for the forementioned reasons to act on the soul by means of the body. For on the one hand the Grace of God dwells in the very depth of the soul, that is, in the mind. For he says: ‘All the glory of the daughter of the King is within,’ not appearing to the demons. For that very reason we feel a divine longing, gushing up as it were out of the depth of our heart, when we are warmly in the remembrance of God. On the other hand the evil spirits thenceforward[1] leap on and lurk in the senses of the body, acting on those who are yet infants in soul by means of the licentiousness of the body. Thus, therefore, on the one hand according to the Apostle our mind ever rejoices at the laws of the Spirit, whereas on the other hand the senses of the body want to be carried off with the softness of the pleasures. Whence, among those who progress in gnosis, Grace gladdens the body into unspeakable exultation by means of the sense of the mind, whereas the demons—and certainly when they find us running the course of piety carelessly—violently capture the soul by means of the senses of the body, the murderers calling it to that which it does not want.
This chapter is not that difficult to understand given the preceding.
The author wishes to explain how it is that after our baptism we are still tempted if indeed the Holy Spirit has now expelled all the demons from our nous or created spirit and become united with us there in the nous. First of all, let us remark on the author’s experiential statement that we feel ‘a divine longing, gushing up as it were out of the depth of our heart, when we are warmly in the remembrance of God’. This might be taken as a characteristic Orthodox experience of the personal presence in the believer of the Holy Spirit. Note that the author positions the place that the ‘divine longing’ comes to consciousness in the heart of the believer.
What the author has in mind in his contrast of this divine gushing out of the depths of the heart and the leaping on and lurking in the senses of the body by the demons is an experiential recognition on the author’s part that after his baptism temptations come to the believer from ‘outside’ his inner world of consciousness whereas the believer’s experience of the Holy Spirit has a different ‘geography’, coming to the believer much more centrally in the core of his inner world of consciousness. In other words, after Baptism, the believer who is making an effort in prayer, above all the Jesus Prayer, actually perceives that Grace comes to him differently from the temptations he experiences, in the way described.
Moreover, the author ties his remark to the statement of the Apostle Paul in Romans that we rejoice in the laws of the Spirit in our innermost man whereas our members are subject to the law of sin.
Note that the author, evidently following St Paul, understands that Grace is a matter of the nous of man (i.e. that is where it appears) whereas temptation is a matter of the body (i.e. that is where it begins). However, as the author develops, Grace can ‘spill over’ from the nous to the body while temptation can reach the nous from the body.
It should also be remarked that there is a category of spiritual temptations that really don’t have all that much to do with the body, as the author himself develops in a further chapter. A temptation to pride is not really a matter of the flesh but of the spirit of man. However, the author is emphasizing the temptations of the flesh that do commence with the body.
Those who say that the two persons of Grace and of sin co-exist in the hearts of the faithful[2] because the Evangelist has said: ‘And the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it;’ wish to recommend their suggestion by saying that the Divine Brightness is not at all dirtied by the sojourn of the Evil One together with it. But they are proved by the very same passage of the Gospel to be of a mindedness outside the Holy Scriptures. For since the Word of God deigned that the True Light should appear in the flesh to his own Creation, in his immeasurable love for Mankind kindling among us his light of gnosis, (although the mindedness of the world did not comprehend the counsel of God, that is, did not know it, since the mindedness of the flesh is hostility to God)—for this reason the Theologian[3] made use of such a phrase as this. Passing over some lines in the middle, the divine [Evangelist] continues: ‘He was the true Light which enlightens every man coming into the world’ (instead of guides or vivifies); ‘he was in the world and the world came to be through him and the world did not know him; he came to his own places and his own people did not receive him; as many as received him, to them he gave authority to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.’ And the wisest Paul also says, interpreting the ‘did not comprehend’: ‘Not that I already have received or that I already have been perfected, but I pursue so that perhaps I might comprehend, since I have already been comprehended by Christ.’ So the Evangelist does not say that Satan has not comprehended the True Light (for from the beginning he is foreign to it because it does not shine in him), but he[4] worthily dishonours by means of this word those men who hear the mighty deeds and the wonders of the Son of God but do not wish to approach the light of his gnosis on account of their darkened heart.
This chapter is largely straightforward as a matter of mystical and ascetic theology. However, it does have some interesting ramifications for the sorts of things that Evangelical Protestants discuss. First of all, note that the author thinks that the purpose of the Incarnation was to kindle among us the light of the Word’s gnosis. This is consistent with the statement of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John that eternal life is to know the Father, the only true God, and the Son whom he has sent.
Next, it seems clear from the context that the author understands the ‘coming into the world’ to modify ‘every man’ and not the ‘true Light’.
Net the author construes the ‘comprehended it not’ of the Gospel of John as meaning not the Devil, since the Devil has always been alien to the Light of God, but those men who hear the Gospel but do not accept to approach the spiritual knowledge given by the True Light. In this author’s world, salvation is a matter of being illuminated by the Light of Christ, and not in a superficial sort of way.
The word of gnosis teaches us that there are as it were two genera of evil spirits. The first ones of these are as it were finer, the second more material. For the finer ones war against the soul, while the others have the custom to take the body captive with certain greasy[5] consolations. Wherefore the demons that wrestle with the soul and those that wrestle with the body are opposed to each other even if they have the same intent of damaging men. Therefore when Grace does not have its abode in man,[6] the demons lurk in the depths of the heart after the manner, really, of serpents, not at all permitting the soul clearly to see the desire of the good. When Grace is hidden in the mind,[7] however, the demons thenceforward run about the parts of the heart like certain gloomy clouds, being formed into the passions of sin and into various distractions, so that lifting up into the air the remembrance of the mind they tear it away from its conversation with Grace. Therefore, when we are inflamed towards the passions of the soul by the demons which afflict the soul, and moreover towards conceit, which is itself the mother of all evils, by considering the dissolution of the body we certainly bring to shame the pretension of ambition. One must also do the same when the demons that wrestle with the body prepare the heart to boil up in shameful desires. For even this simple recollection[8] is able to abolish in the [practice of the] memory of God all the varieties of evil spirits. If on account of this remembrance, however, the demons of the soul suggest limitless contempt for the nature of man, on the ground that there is no value to it for any reason at all on account of the flesh (for they like to do this when one wishes to torture them with a thought[9] of this sort), we henceforward recall the honour and glory of the heavenly kingdom without overlooking the bitter and gloomy aspect of the Judgement, so that in the former we console our despondency while in the latter we toughen the softness of our heart.
This chapter is also quite straightforward. As we ourselves have already remarked, there are demons which affect the soul and demons which affect the body. Moreover, these demons war against each other even though they are united in their hatred of man and their desire for his destruction. Nowadays, one might even hear an Elder say that the demons don’t get along at all with each other whatever their particular characteristics. To understand these remarks, the reader should that in Orthodox demonology; each of the demons has a fixed ‘mission’ or operation. A demon of fornication is always a demon of fornication. A demon of pride is always a demon of pride. A demon of pride doesn’t moonlight as a demon of vainglory. Moreover, there are greater and lesser demons, and, as the author here states, demons which focus on temptations of the body and demons which focus on temptations of the soul.
In the author’s view, before Baptism, because of the Fall, the demons lurk in the depths of man trying to impede his progress towards the Good—i.e. ultimately towards the Light of Christ. Obviously God never allows them to be completely successful. There is no doctrine here, or anywhere else in the Orthodox Church, that a man is completely depraved by the Fall and subject to an eternal election to salvation or to damnation, as Calvin taught. The demons are there, the author is saying, but they do not have a 100% success in persuading the man or woman to live in sin rebelling against God. This of course does not argue against ‘prevenient grace’ as the Roman Catholics put it—the grace from God that a man needs to come to Christ. However, the Orthodox position places a much greater emphasis on the intrinsic free will of Man and on his innate ability to choose. Yes, the demons are there, and yes we need the grace of God to come to God, but no we aren’t robots run by Grace or sin: we are free persons who can choose what to do. Of course, it is clear that our freedom increases after our baptism as we progress spiritually.
After Baptism, the author says, the demons are no longer in the depths of the nous but from outside the person form in the inner world of consciousness of the believer what other authors describe as fantasies.
The author then makes a very astute observation based on his spiritual practice, his spiritual development and his observation of others: the demons make an effort ‘so that lifting up into the air the remembrance of the mind they tear it away from its conversation with Grace’. What the author has in mind is the situation in which the believer—most likely an ascetic given the level at which the author’s discourse is proceeding—has a ‘conversation with Grace’. This could be described as a state of continual prayer. Remember that the author is going to discuss how the Holy Spirit teaches the soul to pray the Jesus Prayer 24 hours a day, even in sleep. The demons, however, attempt to lift the focused conscious inner experience of the believer or ascetic ‘into the air’. What the author means by this is a sort of ‘ballooning’ of the consciousness of the believer or ascetic away from the sober and continuous repetition of the Jesus Prayer into a kind of ‘exaltation’ that breaks the believer’s conscious focus away from the repetition of the Jesus Prayer so that the believer pay attention to an ‘exalted’ fantasy manufactured by the demon. But be aware that this is not merely a matter of breaking a person off from a mere habit: as long as the person is ‘connected’ to the Jesus Prayer he is really praying. He is conversing with the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ, with God. What the demon is trying to do is to break off the prayer, not the habit. And he does it by trying to lift the consciousness of the person praying into another realm connected to the passions of the person, either of the soul or body.
An example is implicit in what the author continues to write: conceit. While we are soberly praying the Jesus Prayer, we are soberly conversing with Grace—with God. However, the demon of ambition or conceit tries to lift our mind into a fantasy world based on this passion of the soul of conceit. Our response, the author says, should be to reflect on the dissolution of the body after death—for we will all die—thus putting to shame the ruse of the demon. This example is a model for how to handle temptations of this sort: reflect on the truth that shows the lie in the temptation. However, the author himself goes on to recommend this particular meditation—which is classically known in Orthodoxy as the ‘memory of death’—even for temptations of the flesh. In the author’s experience, the reflection on the dissolution of the body, for reasons which should be obvious, negates the pleasure proffered by the demon of fornication.
However, the author continues, there is a danger in employing this reflection on the dissolution of the body after death that the demons will suggest to us contempt for the nature of Man, who is composed of body and soul. The author proceeds to explain what to do in terms that are easy to understand.
The Lord teaches us in the Gospels that when Satan returns and finds his own house (that is, the heart that does not bear fruit) swept and put in order, he then takes seven more spirits and enters into that house and lurks there making the last things of the man worse than the first. Whence it must be understood that as long as the Holy Spirit is in us, it is not possible for Satan, entering, to reside in the depth of the soul. But the divine Paul also teaches us clearly the mind[10] of this contemplation, seeing the shape[11] of the matter from the point of view of ascetic gnosis and saying: ‘I rejoice at the Law of God according to the inner man; but I see another law in my members mobilized against the law of my mind and taking me captive in the law of sin, the law which exists in my members;’ but from the point of view of perfection: ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; for the law of the Spirit of Life has freed me from the law of sin and death.’ Again, so that he teach us that from the body Satan wars against the soul which partakes of the Holy Spirit, he also says elsewhere: ‘Stand, therefore, having girded your loins in truth and having clothed yourself with the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet in preparation of the Gospel of Peace, taking up over all the shield of faith, in which you are able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One; and receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ ‘Captivity’ is one thing, ‘battle’ another, since the former is significant of violent seizure whereas the second is declarative of a certain equipollent[12] struggle. Wherefore the Apostle says that the Devil is always coming against the Christ-bearing souls[13] with flaming arrows. For he who is not in control of his own opponent at all events makes use of arrows against him, so that he be able to destroy with the feather of the arrows him who is battling from a distance. Thus also, because Satan is not able on account of the presence of Grace to lurk as previously[14] in the mind of those who are struggling [ascetically], he thenceforward lays hand on the moistness[15] and lurks in the body so that he entice the soul on account of the body’s licentiousness. Wherefore it is necessary to melt the body away moderately so that the mind not slip into the softness of pleasures by means of the body’s moistness. For it is proper to be persuaded by that Apostolic saying that the mind of those who struggle [ascetically][16] is set into activity by the divine light and that their mind therefore also serves and rejoices in the divine Law. The flesh, however, gladly admits the evil spirits on account of its own licentiousness, wherefore it is sometimes drawn out to serve their evil. Whence it certainly appears that the mind is not some common dwelling place of God and the Devil. For how is it that ‘I serve the Law of God in my mind, but in the flesh the law of sin;’ unless my mind stands in every freedom towards battle with the demons, willingly subjecting itself to the goodness of Grace, while the body gladly admits the odour of the irrational passions (because, as I said, among those who are struggling [ascetically] it is permitted to the evil spirits of deceit to lurk in the body)? For he says: ‘For I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;’—thus among those who in the middle of some struggle are resisting. For the Apostle does not say this from himself: the demons battle against the mind but they endeavour by means of greasy consolations to loosen the body towards the softness of the pleasures. For because the free will of the human habit of thought[17] is ever under test, according to a just judgement the demons have once and for all been allowed to sojourn around the depths of the body even among those who are earnestly struggling against sin. If one is able, then, to die while still alive by means of ascetic practices, then he completely becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, for before such a person has died he has been resurrected, just as the Blessed Paul was, and as many as have struggled perfectly, and struggle, against sin.
This very long chapter is very important.
For the most part it should be quite clear.
First, let us note that the author believes, following the Gospel, that one can lose the Holy Spirit. He does not say how, but nowadays in the Orthodox Church it is taught that one only loses the Holy Spirit received in Orthodox Baptism through renunciation of Christ—through joining another religion, even another Christian religion, or even joining an atheist movement such as Communism. Orthodox confessors find themselves in very complex situations in these cases. What the author understands is that assuming that we have not lost the Holy Spirit, then after our baptism we are being tempted by Satan and his demons standing outside us. In the case that we do lose the Holy Spirit, we are in a very wretched state, since the Gospel tells us that in such a case the demon that we had before our baptism returns with ‘seven’ other demons—a host of demons—worse than himself, making our last state worse than our first (i.e. our state before our baptism).
Next, the author uses a method of biblical interpretation that depends on viewing the words of St Paul in terms of St Paul’s intellectual context. The author interprets one saying of St Paul as referring to gnosis attained through ascetic struggle while the struggle is still in progress, but a second saying of St Paul as applying to the perfect. This is important for the Evangelical Protestant because the second quotation is used by the Evangelical Protestants to support the doctrine of ‘imputed justification by faith’. It is clear that that concept is quite foreign to this author. He treats the first statement as referring to those who are struggling ascetically and who have made some progress, and the second statement as referring to those who have come to perfection. Implicit is the author’s notion that after baptism our life is a voluntary struggle to come to perfection and that this is possible, but if we only begin the struggle and then stick to it.
The author then remarks on the difference between ‘captivity’ and ‘struggle’ in terms of what St Paul means about what the demons do to the believer, and how. Interesting is his insistence that the demons use flaming arrows against the believer. Of course, here the author is following St Paul and both are using metaphors based on the military technology of their time. What is important is that the demon is outside the believer ‘looking in’ and trying to tempt the believer, mostly through the believer’s body.
For the most part the rest of the chapter is clear. We would like to comment, however, on this statement: ‘For because the free will of the human habit of thought is ever under test, according to a just judgement the demons have once and for all been allowed to sojourn around the depths of the body even among those who are earnestly struggling against sin’. First of all, the author uses an expression we have translated ‘human habit of thought’. The ascetic authors view our personality in part in terms of habits of thought. In other words, it is not just a matter of our immediate state of consciousness, but of the paths our conscious mind has the habit to travel in. Moreover, here we see the role in Orthodox ascetic theology of the free will. Since we habitually think and respond in various ways, and this is part of the fabric of our person, God has allowed, once and for all, the demons to tempt us even after our baptism, so that our free will might be tested in regard to our habits of thought and our responses which form the fabric of our mind and personality. Do we really want to come to God rejecting the passions of body and soul excited by the demons?
It is possible, however, the author then closes by saying, to come to a state of perfection where we have died to all these passions, especially of the body, so that we are henceforward a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. For Elders in this state, the demons might be an object of pity, as they were for St Isaac the Syrian.
Out of itself also[18] the heart bears thoughts[19] both good and not good, not by nature bearing as fruit the conceptions[20] which are not good but having the remembrance of that which is not good in habit, as it were, on account of the very first deceit (but the heart conceives most evil thoughts out of the bitterness of the demons). However, we sense all of the thoughts as having proceeded from our own heart and for this reason certain persons have suggested that with Grace sin is also in the mind. Wherefore they also say that the Lord said: ‘Those things which come out of the mouth come out of the heart and these things pollute a man; for out of the heart come out evil thoughts, adulteries;’ and the rest. They do not know that the mind, having the activity of a certain most subtle [spiritual] sense, makes its own, as it were by means of the flesh, the activity of the thoughts[21] suggested to it by the evil spirits, the licentiousness of the body bearing the soul to this in addition through the commixture[22] in a manner that we do not know.[23] Because the flesh ever cherishes[24] being flattered without measure by deceit, for this reason the thoughts[25] sown in the soul by the demons also seem to come out of the heart. For we make these thoughts[26] our own, really, when we wish to rejoice in them. Censuring this very thing the Lord made use of the forementioned quotation, since the divine saying declares this. For he who rejoices in the thoughts[27] suggested from the wickedness of Satan and as it were engraves the memory of them in his own heart—it is not unclear that he bears as fruit these thoughts from his own conception[28].
Following Evagrius and possibly the whole Egyptian ascetic tradition, the author now observes that the heart itself can produce thoughts both good and bad. What is meant by this is that we can think good and bad thoughts without the particular impetus of Grace or the demons respectively. This creates a theoretical problem for the author, who responds.
The theoretical problem is the origin of bad thoughts in us that our heart produces after our baptism without the assistance of the demons. For the author has said that after our baptism the demons are no longer in our created spirit. But if we think bad thoughts, then, it would appear, we must be evil by nature—something that flies in the face of our having been created good by God, and having been baptized.
No, the author says, the reason we think bad thoughts by ourselves after our Orthodox baptism is that we have a habit of evil remembrance that derives ultimately from the Fall of Adam. That is, because of the Fall of Adam we have an intimate experience of sin and have that intimate experience of sin in remembrance by force of mental habit. But, the author remarks as an aside, most bad thoughts we think are due to the temptations sown by the demons.
The author continues that since we sense—i.e. experience in our inner thought world—all our thoughts as proceeding from ourselves, some people have thought that we must have sin dwelling in our hearts, in our innermost being, despite our having been baptized. The author wants to refute this.
There are two points we need to clarify. The first is that the demons sow thoughts in our mind, but the mind takes them through ‘certain most subtle [spiritual] sense’ to be its own.
Second, the demons use the body, but again our mind takes these impulses of the body to be its own through the nature of the joining of body and soul. Here one must understand that in common with the whole Orthodox ascetical tradition the author has a Platonic conception of the relation between soul and body that treats the nature of their union (we might say interaction) as a mystery. Someone steeped in a more Aristotelian conception of the soul as the form of the body will have difficulty understanding the author here. The point the author is making is this: ultimately these thoughts have an external source usually using the body, in the case of temptations, or an internal source depending on our habitual remembrance of sin due to the Fall of Adam and Eve. However, ‘he who rejoices in the thoughts suggested from the wickedness of Satan and as it were engraves the memory of them in his own heart—it is not unclear that he bears as fruit these thoughts from his own conception.’ In other words, ultimately our consent to these evil thoughts is what makes them our own.
The Lord says in the Gospel that it is not possible to expel the strong one from his house unless someone who is stronger, having bound and despoiled him, expels him. How is it therefore possible that he who has been expelled with so much shame should enter again and sojourn with the true householder who is reposing however he wishes in his own house? For not even a king who at some time has struggled greatly against the tyrant who has rebelled against him will countenance having this person in the palace. Rather, he will slaughter him immediately or, having bound him, hand him over to his own troops for a long punishment and most miserable death.
This is simply another argument against the assertion that after our baptism the Holy Spirit and the demons dwell together in our nous or created spirit.
If someone supposes, because we think good things together with bad, that the Holy Spirit and the Devil together inhabit the mind, let him learn that this happens because we have not yet tasted and seen that the Lord is good. For, first, as I said above, Grace hides its presence among the baptized, awaiting the intention of the soul; when, however, a man turns his intention wholly towards the Lord, then at that time Grace manifests its presence in the heart with a certain unspeakable [spiritual] perception; and it again awaits the movement of the soul, allowing, indeed, the demonic arrows to reach right up to its deep [spiritual] sense so that it seek out the Lord with warmer intention and humble disposition. If therefore a man henceforth begin to proceed in the keeping of the commandments and unceasingly invoke the Lord Jesus, then the fire of Holy Grace is distributed even on the more external organs of sense of the heart, with inner spiritual assurance[29] burning up the weeds of the human earth.[30] Whence even [31] arrive somewhat further away from those places, tranquilly pricking the impassioned part of the soul.[32] When the man of the struggle further binds all the virtues to himself,[33] and certainly poverty, then in a certain deeper [spiritual] sense Grace illuminates his whole nature towards a great love of God which henceforth warms him round. Wherefore the bows and arrows[34] are then extinguished more externally to the sense of the body.[35] For, moving the heart towards winds of peace, the breeze of the Holy Spirit completely extinguishes the arrows of the fire-bearing demon while the arrows are still borne in the air. However, on occasion God surrenders to the evil of the demons even the one who has attained this very measure, at that time abandoning his mind without light so that in everything our free will not be bound with the bond of Grace[36]—and not only so that sin be defeated out of struggles but also because the man is yet obliged to progress in spiritual experience. For [to esteem that] that which is thought to be the perfection of him who is being trained is still imperfect as regards the wealth of God who is training us exists in the love of a sense of honour, even if one should be able to ascend the whole ladder which was shown to Jacob by progress in ascetic practices.[37]
This is an important chapter which is easy to understand in its fundamental conception. The key image that the author is employing is one that derives from his personal experience and observation: The temptations arrive either closer to or further away from the centre of the inner world of consciousness of the ascetic. Because of the practice of the Jesus Prayer this inner world has certain characteristics. Moreover, although the author does not explicitly discuss praying the Jesus Prayer in the heart, he treats the centre of the ascetic’s inner world of consciousness as being the ascetic’s heart. This indeed might be an argument that the author did pray the Jesus Prayer in the heart, as St John of Sinai will indicate about the middle of the 7th Century. The author has already asserted that Grace gushes like a fountain out of the heart. What he is now saying is that depending on the spiritual progress of the ascetic and the intensity of the gush of Grace from the heart (this depends on the sovereign will of God at any time), then the temptations of the demons, again treated as flaming arrows, can arrive closer or further away from the heart as the centre of the ascetic’s inner world. When we have made progress and Grace is flowing strongly, then the arrows of the demons land ‘tranquilly’ far away. When God wills or we have not made progress, then these flaming arrows of temptation land much closer to the centre of our conscious world, the heart.
The author observes that God on occasion withdraws his Grace so that the ascetic might fight and so that God might see practically that the ascetic in his free will wants God truly, not just when things are going well and easily.
He also points out that this abandonment to the struggle is sometimes necessary so that the ascetic attain to greater spiritual experience—greater understanding of how the demons do their business.
The author closes with a syntactically difficult sentence. It means that he who has a sense of honour towards God treats his own perfection attained through ascetical effort with the assistance of Grace as nothing in comparison with the perfection that pertains to God by nature.
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[38] in no way deprives the soul of divine light. For the most part Grace only hides its own presence from the mind, as I have already said, 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[39] hands the soul that does not want to have God over to the demons like a prisoner. We are not bastards[40], 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.[41]
In the context of the preceding, this chapter is clear. The author continues to discuss the two types of abandonment in the next chapter.
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[42]. 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.[43] However, it must be known that when the battle occurs according to the essential[44] 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.
The only thing to be clear on here is that the surrender due to aversion is due to our sins. Hence the prescription. The reader might refer to the Prison the Ladder of Divine Ascent for a very good treatment of the nature of the abandonment due to sin, and the measures taken to try to persuade God to restore Grace to the sinner. One might also consider David in sackcloth and ashes imploring God not to allow the son to die that he had conceived with Uriah’s wife through sin. In the next chapter, the author turns to other topics.

[1] I.e. after our baptism.
[2] I.e. the baptized.
[3] I.e. St John the Evangelist.
[4] I.e. the Evangelist.
[5] Greek: liparon. It is not entirely clear what this means in context.
[6] I.e. before Baptism.
[7] I.e. after Baptism.
[8] I.e. of the dissolution of the body. This is usually called the Memory of Death.
[9] Greek: ennoia.
[10] Greek: nous. I.e. meaning or sense.
[11] Greek: schema.
[12] I.e. equal in power. Both sides in the struggle have the same strength.
[13] I.e. souls which have the Holy Spirit indwelling through Baptism.
[14] I.e. before Baptism.
[15] Greek: ugroteti. The editor of the critical edition renders this as the humours of the body, which is probably what the author has in the back of his mind.
[16] Here the author seems to mean all Christians, however.
[17]Habit of thought’. This might be rendered ‘way of thinking’. In Greek: phronematos.
[18] I.e. not only does the person have bad thoughts on account of the demons, or even good thoughts on account of the Holy Spirit, but also out of his own nature. The issue then becomes, well where does the person get bad thoughts if they arise out of his own nature given that God made everything good?
[19] Greek: logismous.
[20] Greek: ennoias.
[21] Greek: logismon.
[22] I.e. through the mixing together of the soul and body.
[23] This very difficult sentence means that the mind has a certain subtle sense which appropriates as it were by means of the flesh the thought suggested by the demons, while, in addition, the body itself through its own natural licentiousness brings the soul to this because of the body and soul’s commixture in a way that we do not know.
[24] Greek: philei.
[25] Greek: logismoi.
[26] Greek: logismous.
[27] Greek: logismois.
[28] Greek: ennoias.
[29] I.e. The person is conscious of this and spiritually assured.
[30] The author appears to view the interior world of the ascetic as having levels of depth so that he can speak of inner and outer spiritual senses. What he is saying is that when the Holy Spirit tries the ascetic, it allows the demonic arrows to reach to the depths of the ascetic’s inner world but when ascetic makes progress in keeping the commandments and unceasingly remembers the Lord Jesus via the Jesus Prayer, then the fire of Grace touches not only the most interior part of the ascetic’s inner world but expands outward to the more external spiritual organs of sense of the heart. This is evidently based on the author’s own experience both in the Jesus Prayer and as a guide of souls.
[31] Greek: <ta demonika bele>. The text has ‘the demonic counsels (Greek: ai demonikai boulai), which the other translators have rendered as ‘the demonic attacks (Greek: ai demonikai epiboulai)’. Surely, however, given that ‘the demonic arrows’ is a consistent element here and elsewhere in St Diadochos’ text and given that he immediately goes on to speak of these things ‘pricking or piercing’, the text is faulty and to be emended in the manner given.
[32] Evidently the author means that the arrows reach only to the more external parts of the heart, not to the centre as before, thus pricking more gently the impassioned parts of the soul. The text is corrupt it seems.
[33] This seems to be an image of the warrior binding armour to himself.
[34] Greek: toxa.
[35] Note that the author has a sort of set of concentric circles: the innermost circle or bull’s-eye is Grace itself united to the mind. Close to this is the innermost spiritual sense. Then further out are the more external spiritual senses of the heart. Finally there are the senses of the body. The author is saying that when Grace recedes, then the arrows of the demons reach to the innermost spiritual sense, but as Grace grows stronger because of the ascetic’s application to the ascetic struggle, the arrows reach only to the more external spiritual senses because of the more pervasive conscious presence of Grace. Finally, when the ascetic has reached to the stage of binding all the virtues to himself, then the arrows of the demons are extinguished beyond even the physical senses of the body, the outermost circle. But see later in the text, Chapters 89 ff., how the author treats the stage of perfection.
[36] I.e. when we experience great Grace, our will is at it were bound to God by our experience of that Grace. But when we experience abandonment, our free commitment to God is tested in the darkness of abandonment. The author continues, saying that this is actually for two reasons: so that sin be defeated in struggle and so that the man progress in practical spiritual experience (so that he understand the nature of spiritual warfare experientially).
[37] What the author means is that when the Christian has a proper sense of honour—which is really love for the God who has created us—then, instead of boasting of his attainments, he considers that what he has accomplished is nothing in the wealth of God whom he has loved.
[38] 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’.
[39] 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.
[40] Literally, ‘children of concealment’. The interpretation depends on the polarity between this and the ‘genuine children’ following.
[41] 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.
[42] 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.
[43] This is very similar to the ‘Prison’ in the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St John of Sinai.
[44] 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.

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