Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Commentary on Diadochos 88 - 100

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

Just as, when one is standing some place in the winter-time at the beginning of day and looking wholly towards the east, all his front parts are warmed by the sun whereas all his back parts have no share in the warmth because the sun is not directly over his head, thus also those who are in the beginning of spiritual activity[1] are partially warmed round in the heart by Divine Grace. Wherefore also the mind of such persons begins at that time to bear as fruit spiritual habits of thought, but obvious parts of the mind remain with habits of thought according to the flesh, since all the parts of the heart have not yet been completely illuminated with the light of Divine Grace in deep [spiritual] perception. (Certain persons, however, not understanding this very thing, have in themselves thought that in the minds of those who are struggling [ascetically] there are two hypostases[2] set over against one another.) Therefore it thus happens that the mind thinks good things and not good things in the same instant, in the same way that the man in the example both shivers and is warmed in the same instant. For from the time that our mind slid away into the duality of <judgement>[3], from that time it has a need to bear, even if it should not want, both good and bad thoughts[4], and certainly even among those who have come into subtlety of discernment. For as it ever makes an effort to think the good, directly it also recalls evil, because the memory of man is split into a dual conception from the time of Adam’s disobedience. Therefore if we begin with warm zeal to practise the commandments of God, thenceforth Grace, illuminating in a certain deep [spiritual] perception all our [spiritual] organs of sense, burns up as it were all our recollections, and, sweetening our heart in a certain peace of unwavering friendship,[5] prepares us to think certain spiritual things and no longer according to the flesh. This occurs extremely often to those who are approaching perfection, those who unceasingly have in their heart the memory of the Lord Jesus.
This is an important chapter. It continues the notion that because of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise, Man henceforward has a ‘duality of judgement’ that is only overcome in the advanced stages of Orthodox spiritual growth. The chapter itself is conceptually simple, although, as always, the author’s diction can be difficult to construe.
The basic notion that the author here has is that once we have been baptized, we have Grace, the Holy Spirit, in the depths of our nous or created spirit. Despite that, because of the human condition we still think bad thoughts. Again he is adamant to insist that this is not due to the hypostatic (personal) presence of evil in the baptized Orthodox Christian. It is due to the Fall.
Thus, even among those who are so spiritually advanced as to possess the charism of discernment in power, good thoughts and bad thoughts are intermingled in their thought processes. However, among those who have progressed spiritually to the point that they ‘unceasingly have in their heart the memory of the Lord Jesus’—this corresponds to their being in a state of continual contemplation (to use the Roman Catholic term); it corresponds to the biblical statement of David that he had the Lord ever before him at his right hand to guide him—then there is no longer this duality: they have restored, or are very close to having restored, the similarity to God that Adam and Eve lost in the Fall. This is a rather rare condition: one might be an Elder and still be subject to evil thoughts, although certainly not subject to the degree of a beginner.
Holy Grace procures two things for us in our Baptism of Rebirth, of which the one limitlessly exceeds the other. But the lesser[6] is granted immediately: it renews us in the very water and makes bright all the lines of the soul—that is, the ‘according to the image’—, washing away every stain of sin. The greater[7] expects that it work with us, which very thing is the ‘according to the likeness’. When the mind therefore begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in great [spiritual] perception, then we should know that Grace is beginning as it were to paint the ‘according to the likeness’ on the ‘according to the image’. For in the same way that painters first delineate in one colour the figure of the man, then, adorning tint little by little with tint, thus capture up to the strands of hair the form of the man being portrayed—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the ‘according to the image’ by means of Baptism to whatever it was when Man came to be. But when it sees us desiring from every intention the beauty of the ‘according to the likeness’ and standing naked and unskakeable in its workshop, then, adorning virtue with virtue and bringing the form of the soul back from glory to glory it procures for it the very character[8] of the ‘according to the likeness’. Therefore on the one hand the [spiritual] perception declares that we are being formed in the ‘according to the likeness’; on the other hand we will know the perfection of the likeness from the illumination. For the mind receives all the virtues by means of the [spiritual] sense according to a certain measure and unspeakable rhythm; one cannot acquire spiritual love, however, unless he be illuminated by the Holy Spirit in every [spiritual] assurance.[9] If the mind does not receive the ‘according to the likeness’ by means of the Divine Light, on the one hand it is able to have almost all the other virtues but on the other hand it yet remains without a share in perfect love. For when it becomes like to the virtue of God—as much as a man has room to become like to God, I say—then it also bears the likeness of the divine love. For just as among those who are being portrayed the whole splendid colour of colours[10] added to the image preserves the resemblance of him who is being portrayed right up to the smile, thus also among those who are being painted by Divine Grace wholly to the divine likeness, the illumination of love added to the ‘according to the likeness’ declares the ‘according to the image’ to be a completely good resemblance.[11] For no other virtue except only love is able to procure dispassion for the soul. For the fullness of the Law is love. So, then, our inner man is renewed from day to day in the taste of love; it is completed in love’s perfection.
This chapter is the heart of the treatise. It behoves the reader to study it very carefully.
The argument goes like this. When we are baptized, we receive certain goods. First of all, we receive the Holy Spirit into our nous or created spirit while at the same time all other spirits are expelled from us.
Next, our sins are forgiven.
Finally, most important for the purposes of the argument of this chapter, the image of God is restored in us to the state that Adam and Eve had in Paradise. Note that, as we have remarked earlier, if a person has damaged his nous spiritually through non-Orthodox spiritual practices, this does not mean that that damage is reversed at this stage. That appears to be something that comes later according to the scheme that the author is defining in this chapter. However, Baptism ‘makes bright all the lines of the soul’. There is a fundamental change. This is the restoration of the ‘according to the image’.
But these are the lesser goods of Baptism. What, then, is the greater?
This ‘very thing is the “according to the likeness”’. What is the author getting at?
The author uses the metaphor of portraiture. The ‘according to the image’ is the artist’s preliminary sketch for a portrait. What the author is saying is that before Orthodox Baptism, the sketch is smudged although not unrecognizable. Baptism, however, restores the artist’s sketch to its original beauty. However, it is something lesser because it remains only a sketch. The greater is the full portrait. The full portrait is done after Baptism when the baptized Orthodox takes it upon himself or herself to cooperate with Grace to execute the full portrait—to strive to come into the ‘according to the likeness’. ‘When the mind therefore begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in great [spiritual] perception, then we should know that Grace is beginning as it were to paint the “according to the likeness” on the “according to the image”. For in the same way that painters first delineate in one colour the figure of the man, then, adorning tint little by little with tint, thus capture up to the strands of hair the form of the man being portrayed—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the “according to the image” by means of Baptism to whatever it was when Man came to be. But when it sees us desiring from every intention the beauty of the “according to the likeness” and standing naked and unskakeable in its workshop, then, adorning virtue with virtue and bringing the form of the soul back from glory to glory it procures for it the very character of the “according to the likeness”.
This is what it’s all about. No more. No less.
The author then asserts that while all the other virtues come to the person through the spiritual sense, the crowning virtue of love comes to him by Divine Illumination. Earlier we remarked that the author’s theology of salvation was a theology of illumination by the Divine Light. Here we can see that he expects the culmination of that illumination to be our ability to love in the way that Jesus loved.
The author has already discussed the fact that we retain up to the last stages of our spiritual growth a duality of thought which allows and indeed causes us to think bad thoughts with the good thoughts. It is clear that he foresees that this duality of thought will cease when the person arrives at the illumination with the Divine Light which confers on him or her the ability to love with the love of Jesus Christ. For this is the fullness of the Law. It is the fullness of the Christian vocation; it is the fullness of the restoration of the ‘according to the likeness’ of God.
This is the Orthodox Christian vocation.
In the beginning of our progress, if indeed we ardently and warmly desire the virtue of God, the Holy Spirit makes the mind taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance the sweetness of God, so that the mind know in exact knowledge the perfect reward of the God-loving ascetic practices. Thenceforward, however, it hides for much time the extravagance of this vivifying gift so that even if we should work all the other virtues completely we consider ourselves to be wholly nothing because we do not yet have the divine love as it were in habit. Thus, therefore, the demon of hatred thereafter afflicts the soul of those who are struggling [ascetically], so that it slander even those who love them with the goal of inciting hatred, and bears the corrupting activity of hatred almost up to the kiss. Whence, thereafter the soul is pained, bearing on the one hand the memory of spiritual love but on the other hand not being able to acquire it in [spiritual] perception because of the lack of the most perfect ascetic practices. Therefore it is necessary that in the meantime we work this by violence, so that we attain to its taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance.[12] For no one in this flesh can acquire the perfection of this love except those saints who have come as far as martyrdom and perfect confession.[13] For he whose lot this is, is wholly changed and does not easily desire food. For to him who is nourished by divine love what desire is there for the good things in the world? For this reason, the wisest Paul, the great receptacle of gnosis, announcing to us from his own spiritual experience[14] the good news of the luxuriousness of the first just men[15] which is going to be, speaks thus: ‘For the Kingdom of Heaven is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and grace in the Holy Spirit;’ which things are the fruit of perfect love. So, then, those who are progressing in perfection are here able to taste this continually, but no one is able to acquire this perfectly except when that which is mortal is swallowed up by Life.[16]
What the author is saying here is not always true. It was true in the life of St Silouan the Athonite and in the life of St Symeon the New Theologian, who read St Diadochos when he was a novice. However, there are sometimes other roads that the Orthodox is led on by the Holy Spirit. These are the judgements of God.
However, in the case that the author is addressing what he has in mind is this: God grants us a taste of perfection in the beginning of our ascetical road so that we know where we are going. Then he hides his Grace to let us ‘fight it out’. However, we can never attain by our own efforts to possessing constantly (habitually) what we had tasted at the beginning (this divine love), and this fact works for our humility. It also makes us more zealous for our asceticism. However, paradoxically, even though we have tasted this divine love and wish to attain to its habitual possession and exercise, not only can we not do it but we are tempted to outright hatred ‘almost up to the kiss’. It is not quite clear what the author means here. He could mean that we are tempted right up to Judas’ kiss of betrayal; he could mean that our duality of thought introduces hateful thoughts even right up to the instant that we kiss someone or something such as an icon—or even right up to the moment we receive communion. It should be understood that these involuntary hateful thoughts—even at the moment of communion, say—can be very painful for us to experience when we have tasted the divine love and seek to possess that divine love as our own.
The author states that in this condition we must redouble our ascetic efforts—remember that here he is talking to very advanced Hesychasts.
Moreover, the author makes a very astute and profound remark. It is impossible to completely overcome the flesh and live this divine love unless we arrive at martyrdom. For if we should survive the martyrdom, we are, as St Paul remarks, no longer in the flesh. However, the advanced Hesychast can experience this Divine Love continually, although not perfectly until ‘that which is mortal is swallowed up by Life’.
One of those who love the Lord with a certain insatiable judgement[17] narrated to me as follows: ‘To me who desired to know it with knowledge,[18] the Good One provided the love of God in much [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance[19]; and I was so much clothed with such an activity[20] that my soul hasted with a certain unspeakable joy and love to go out from the body and depart towards the Lord, and to ignore as it were this temporal way of life itself.’ Even if he who in experience [21] this love should be insulted or injured by someone a myriad of times (for it happens that he is yet going to have one of these sorts of things to work on with labour) he does not grow wrathful with him but remains as if glued even to the soul of him who has despised or even injured him. He is kindled only against those who come either against the poor or against God (as Scripture says, ‘They speak evil;’) or who otherwise lead to a certain extent an evil way of life. For he who henceforward loves God beyond himself—or, rather, no longer loves himself but only God—no longer avenges his own honour but wants only the righteousness to be honoured of him who has honoured him in eternal honour.[22] He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but thenceforth on account of the great experience of divine love has this disposition as it were as a habit. It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the activity of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, through the great love holding on in [spiritual] perception in his heart to him who is honoured in faith.[23] The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: ‘Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.’ For he who is in the wealth of love holding on to God, as I said, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.[24]
It is generally considered that the author is referring to himself, using the third person out of humility.
This chapter, very important as a statement of mystical experience, is quite clear. We only need remark on a few passages.
First, ‘He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but thenceforth on account of the great experience of divine love has this disposition as it were as a habit.’ In the previous chapter, the author discussed the case where the advanced ascetic had a more or less continual experience of the divine love but did not have it habitually. Here he is addressing the case where the ascetic has this divine love habitually.
Second, ‘It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the activity of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, through the great love holding on in [spiritual] perception in his heart to him who is honoured in faith. The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: “Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.” For he who is in the wealth of love holding on to God, as I said, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.’ Essentially what the author is saying is that in these states of rapture the ascetic is in spiritual union with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and it is not a matter of faith during the experience: the expression ‘in the wealth of love holding on to God’ is a description of an experience of intense union with God. ‘As being wholly in longing’ is a description of affective ecstasy.
If one meets a person who has had the experiences the author is describing, his whole life can change, although not always—for even in the case of the Word made flesh, not everyone’s life changed when they met Christ in Galilee.
The intermediate state of divine love prepares us to be not a little sorrowed when because of some quarrel we make someone our enemy by insulting him. Wherefore they[25] never cease to prick our conscience until through much rendering of accounts we lead the one who was insulted back to his previous disposition. Even when one of the people leading a worldly life has unjustly grown wroth with us, the most extreme compunction concerning this matter makes us meditate and take much thought since we have wholly become a stumbling block to someone of this Age[26]. Whence the mind even becomes idle in regard to contemplation[27]. For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations[28] unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us. If, then, that person does not want this to happen or, again, has departed from our paths, the word of gnosis thenceforth hastes us to add the character of his face to our own soul in a certain unformed humour[29],[30] thus in disposition to fulfil the law of love in the depth of the heart. For he says:[31] ‘Those who wish to have the gnosis of God must in their own intellect look upon, without choleric conception, even the faces of those who are choleric out of season.’ This having come to pass, the mind is not only faultlessly set into motion as regards theology but will also ascend to the love of God with great boldness of spirit[32], hastening unimpededly from the second step to the first.[33]
We need only comment on a few sentences here. Otherwise the chapter should be clear given the preceding.
‘For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us.’ This is an important remark. If we have sinned—even slightly and even if the sin isn’t really our fault—we can find it very difficult to engage in our customary activity of prayer until things are sorted out and we are reconciled.
It is worth remarking that the Grace of God may intervene so as to free us from our choleric conception without reconciling us to the other party physically: the situation may be such that Grace finds it necessary to invoke the Gospel: ‘if he does not listen to the Church, let him be to you as a tax-collector and sinner’.
To those who are beginning to desire piety ardently the way of virtue seems extremely rough and very gloomy not because it is that sort of thing but because directly from the womb human nature consorts with the full range of the pleasures. To those who are able to come to middle of it, the way is shown to be wholly approachable and comfortable, for having been subordinated through the activity[34] of the good, the bad is destroyed by the good habit along with the memory of the irrational passions.[35] Whence, thenceforth the soul gladly passes through the all the paths of the virtues. For this reason, the Lord, introducing us to the road of salvations, says: ‘How narrow and strait is the road leading to the Kingdom and few are they that enter in by it.’ To those who with much intention wish to come forth to the keeping of his holy commandments, he says: ‘For my yoke is good and my load is light.’ Therefore, in the beginning of the struggle it is necessary to work the holy commandments of God with a certain violent act of the will, so that seeing our purpose and effort the good Lord send us a certain act of the will very much ready to serve his glorious wishes.[36] For then: ‘The will[37] is prepared by the Lord;’ so that we unceasingly work the good in a certain great joy. For then, really, we will perceive that: ‘God is he who acts in us both to want and to act beyond expectation.’[38]
The only thing to point out here is that the author understands that our being given over to the pleasures of the flesh is something that we have directly from the womb: it is part of the human condition. Of course that is why we are baptized and engage with the assistance of God in the ascetic struggle to attain to the ‘according to the likeness’.
In the same way that wax that has not been heated or softened for a long time is not able to accept the seal which has been placed on it, thus neither is a man, unless he be tried by [ascetic] labours and infirmities[39], able to find place for the seal of divine virtue.[40] For this reason the Lord says to the divine Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in infirmity[41].’ And the Apostle himself boasts, saying: ‘Therefore I would rather boast gladly of my infirmities so that the power of Christ dwell upon me.’ And in Proverbs it has been written: ‘The Lord chastises him who he loves; he whips every son whom he receives.’ And the Apostle calls ‘infirmities’ the rebellions of the enemies of the Cross which continually happened to him and to all the saints of that day so that they not be puffed up, as he himself says, at the abundance of revelations—but they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt. But now we call ‘infirmities’ the evil thoughts and the bodily anomalies. For, then, because the bodies of the saints who were struggling against sin were delivered up to deadly tortures and various other afflictions, their bodies were much higher than the passions which have entered into human nature out of sin. Now, however, because the peace of the Churches[42] is multiplied on account of the Lord, it is necessary on account of this that the body of the strugglers of piety be tried by means of continual anomalies, and their soul by means of wicked thoughts—certainly even among those in whom gnosis is active in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance—so that they both be able to be beyond every vainglory, or vain imagining even, and by means of the great lowliness be able to find space in their hearts, as I said, for the seal of the beauty of God, according to the saint who said: ‘For the light of your Face has been stamped upon us, O Lord.’ Therefore, giving thanks, we must await the counsel of the Lord.[43] For the continuality of the sicknesses and the battle against the demonic thoughts will be reckoned for us to the account of a second martyrdom. For he who at that time said to the holy martyrs by means of those lawless rulers, ‘Deny Christ; long for the glories of this present life!’ even now stands against them in person, unceasingly saying the very same things. He who at that time pained the bodies of the righteous and insulted to the utmost the teachers of honour through those ministering to those diabolical habits of thought—that very same one even now leads the various passions against the confessors of piety with many insults and acts of contempt, and certainly when for the sake of the glory of the Lord they help the poor who are extremely afflicted. For that reason it is necessary to work with sureness and patience on the martyrdom of our conscience before the Lord. For he says: ‘Waiting patiently, I patiently awaited the Lord and he took heed to me.’
Here is the gist of this chapter and the thought underlying much of what the author has already written about the imperfection of the ascetic: ‘…they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt.’ What the author means is that, as St Isaac the Syrian puts it, humility is the garment of the Divinity. Hence, all the imperfections we experience, all the infirmities, all of the weakness—these are all meant to ensure our humility so that God might be glorified in us through his presence, especially as divine love.
The author also explains after a fashion what is meant by the expression ‘the martyrdom of conscience’. This is the state of being afflicted by tempting thoughts—bad thoughts that we do not want. These call us to sins that we do not want. This struggle has the following good results: we are purified; we learn the ruses of the demons; we grow in humility; and we show to God that we are serious in our love for him. In such situations, we must exercise patience, waiting on the Lord as the Psalmist puts it.
The author now proceeds in the next chapter to discuss humility.
Humility is a hard thing to procure. For in the measure of its greatness, that much it is attained with many struggles. It comes to those who participate in holy gnosis in two ways. First, when he is in the intermediate stage of spiritual experience, then either on account of infirmity of the body or on account of those who show enmity to those who take a care for what is right or on account of evil thoughts, the struggler of piety has a somewhat lowlier habit of thought. Second, when the mind is illuminated in much [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance by Divine Grace, then the soul has humility as it were as a natural attribute. For fattened by the divine Goodness, it is no longer able to be puffed up by the pretension of ambition and, even if it unceasingly works the commandments of God, considers itself lower than all men on account of the fellowship of the divine forbearance.[44] The first humility most often has sorrow and discouragement; the second, joy with an all-wise respect for others. Wherefore, as I said, the first humility comes to those who are in the middle of the struggles but the second is sent down to those who are approaching perfection. On account of this, the first is often damaged by the successes of this life,[45] while the second neither perceives the terrible arrows of sin in any way nor is shaken even if someone were to offer it all the Kingdoms of the world—for being wholly spiritual it completely ignores bodily glories. To come into the second humility it is in every respect necessary that the [ascetic] struggler come by means of the first. For unless Grace by means of the first humility first softens our free will in the application of the pedagogic passions—voluntarily and not by necessity[46]—it will not grant us the splendour of the second humility.
This is quite clear and very important. The only thing that might be ambiguous is the notion of the humility that comes to the perfect. This is a god-given humility that St John of Sinai remarks on; this is the humility that is the garment of the Divine. But we can only receive this second humility if we have struggled through the first, which is the humility of the weak man struggling to advance up the hard mountain of love.
Those who are friends of the pleasures of this world come to the actual missteps from the thoughts[47]. For borne by an undiscerning judgement they desire to bring almost all their impassioned conceptions[48] to lawless words and unholy works. Those however who are endeavouring to accomplish the ascetic way of life come from the actual missteps to the evil thoughts and to certain evil and damaging words. For if the demons see such persons gladly tolerating abuse [of others] or speaking certain idle or unseasonable things or laughing as it should not be or angered immoderately or desiring to see empty and vain glory, then in a group they arm themselves against them. Moreover, taking [the ascetic’s] ambition as an excuse for their own evil they jump as it were through a certain dark window and plunder the soul. Therefore it is necessary that those who wish to dwell together with the multitude of virtues not seek glory, nor meet with many people, nor make use of continual departures [from the monastery] or abuse certain persons (even if those who are abused are worthy of the abuse), nor speak much even if they are able to say all things well. For dispersing the mind without measure, garrulity not only makes the mind idle in relation to its spiritual labour but also delivers it to the demon of accidie[49], which weakening it without measure delivers it thenceforth to the demons of sorrow and to the demons of anger. The mind must therefore ever be occupied with the keeping of the holy commandments and with the deep remembrance of the Lord of Glory. For he says: ‘He who keeps the commandment will not know an evil word;’ that is, will not deviate into bad thoughts or words.
This is a very astute psychological analysis. What the author means is this. Worldly people strive to put into practice whatever comes into their head without discriminating where the thought is coming from. The reason for this, of course, is that these thoughts are stimulating the worldly person to act on one of the passions and that person is a slave to his passions.
However, the author says, things are different when it is a matter of an ascetic. The ascetic has reached the stage where he knows something about the thoughts and he is not about to act out any old thought he has. However, he might expose himself to the demons by his actions—by engaging in idle talk, ribaldry, condemnation of others and so on and so forth.
Moreover, if the ascetic has ambition—not impossible; ordinary men and women become ascetics; saints are made not born; we all have our share of all the passions—then the demons have a ‘field day’.
The rest of the chapter should be clear. The discussion of the interrelations of the passions is important, but it would take us too far afield to analyze the discussion in detail. Other ascetic writers discuss the relationships among the passions.
When the heart receives the bows and arrows of the demons with a certain warm pain in such a way that it suspects that he who is at war[50] bears real arrows, the soul hates the passions with pain, as being in the beginning of being purified. For if the soul should not suffer great pain on account of the impudence of sin it would not rejoice richly over the goodness of righteousness. Therefore let him who wants to purify his heart set it on fire with the memory of the Lord Jesus, having only this as a meditation and ceaseless work. For those who volunteer to put off their own rot must not pray[51] at one time and at another time not pray, but ever occupy themselves with the prayer[52] in the keeping of the mind, even if they should have their abode somewhere outside the houses of prayer. In the way that someone who wishes to purify gold, again makes hard the material being purified if he lets the fire go out under the crucible even if for only a short time—in that same way he who at one time remembers God and at another time does not, loses though the idleness whatever he thinks to acquire by the prayer[53]. It is characteristic of the man who loves virtue ever to consume what is earthy in his heart by means of the memory of God so that bit by bit the bad is thus expended by the fire of the memory of the Good and the soul come back completely to its natural brightness, with greater glory.
The only thing that needs to be emphasized here is that the author foresees the continual practice of the Jesus Prayer, its continual practice being something quite necessary.
Dispassion is not the state of not being warred against by the demons, since we would then need to have gone out of the world, according to the Apostle, but the state in which those who are warred against remain not warred against.[54] For the warriors who wear armour have arrows shot at them by their opponents and hear the sound of the archery—and they also see almost all the arrows sent against them—yet they are not wounded because of the hardness of the armour. Being fenced by iron they have the quality of not being warred against when they are in battle; let us, however, by means of all good works armed fully with the panoply of the Holy Light and the helmet of salvation, cut through the dark phalanxes of the demons. For purity is not brought about merely by stopping to do bad things, but by setting aside evil in power through attending assiduously to the good.
This is clear enough. The only important thing to remark on is that the author views ‘dispassion’ as a state of freedom from the passions. As should be clear, he does not make dispassion the end point of the mystical journey, but the reception of divine love in habit through habitual union with the Trinity, this being conferred on the person through an experience of divine illumination.
When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, two demons remain behind to fight. The first of these annoys the soul so that it come from much love of God to an unseasonable zeal such that it does not want any one else to please God in the way that it does; the second annoys the body, moving it with a certain burning activity to the desire for intercourse. This happens to the body because, first, this pleasure is a property of nature as on account of child-bearing and for that reason easily defeated; and, further, also on account of the permission of God. For when the Lord sees one of the strugglers flourishing in the multitude of virtues, he on occasion permits him to be sullied by this demon so that he suppose himself to be worse than all the men who lead a secular life. Doubtless, annoyance by this passion either follows the attainments or, on occasion, comes before them so that, in the sudden attack of the passion, the soul seem in anticipation somewhat useless whatever its great accomplishments might [come to] be. But let us battle the first passion in great humility and love, and the second passion in temperance and freedom from wrath and the deep conception[55] of death, so that from these things ceaselessly tasting the activity of the Holy Spirit we come in the Lord to be above these very passions.
This chapter is relatively clear. The author by experience knows that those approaching perfection are subject to two special temptations—an envy that doesn’t accept that others might also become saints, and disturbances of the flesh.
As many of us become participants in divine gnosis will render an account of even our involuntary vain imaginings. For Job says: ‘You have taken note even if I have transgressed involuntarily in something;’—and justly so. For if one were not to cease to remember God and not to neglect his holy commandments, one would not fall into either a voluntary or an involuntary fault. It is therefore necessary to offer firm confession to the Master even in connection with our involuntary faults, that is, in connection with the labour of the customary canon[56] (for there is no one who is a man who has not miss-stepped humanly), up to the time that in tears of love our conscience assure us spiritually concerning the remission of these things. He says: ‘For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so that he forgive our sins and purify us from every injustice.’ It is necessary to attend unceasingly to the [spiritual] perception of confession so that our conscience certainly not taste itself in the condition of supposing that it has confessed adequately to God, for the judgement of God is mightier than our conscience even if in complete spiritual assurance someone should know of nothing in himself[57], as the wisest Paul teaches us, saying: ‘But I do not interrogate myself; for I know of nothing in myself; but I have not been justified in that; the Lord is he who interrogates me.’[58] For if we do not confess properly concerning these things then at the time of our departure we will find a certain secret cowardice in ourselves. We who love the Lord must pray to be found without fear in that hour for he who is then found in fear will not pass by the Tartarian rulers in a free way, for they have that fear of the soul as an lawyer, as it were, on behalf of their own evil. But in the hour of dissolution the soul which exults in the love of God is borne with the angels above all the dark ranks. It is as it were given wings by the spiritual love, bearing love without lack as the fullness of the Law. Wherefore even in the Second Coming of the Lord those who depart from this life with such boldness will be taken up in rapture with all the saints. But those who are a little cowardly in the time of death will be left behind with the multitude of other men as being under judgement, so that having been tried by the fire of judgement they receive in accordance to their own practices the inheritance owed to them from our good God and King Jesus Christ; for he is the God of Justice and over us who love him his is the wealth of the goodness of his Kingdom to the Ages of Ages. Amen.
This final chapter has some important points. The author is now speaking to the perfect and to the almost-perfect. They are obliged, he is saying, to engage continually in the contemplation of God because they will be held accountable by God even for their involuntary transgressions. He makes the very astute remark, reminiscent of St John of Damascus, who was many centuries after him, that if we were to remain in contemplation of God continually, we would have no falls, either voluntary or involuntary.
Next, the author remarks on the disposition of continual confession of our faults to God. This might be a little dangerous for a not-so-spiritually-advanced reader with temptations to obsessive-compulsive behaviour (scruples), so let us remark that the author is speaking to very advanced Hesychasts, essentially to saints.
Our author and saint then continues with a very subtle discussion of the psychology of dying. If we have the least soil on our conscience, we will have a certain cowardice at the time of our death. That cowardice will prevent us from being borne up to the Lord by the angels at the hour of our death (for an explanation of this see the Sayings of the Desert Fathers) and we will ultimately be left with the multitude of men to be tested by fire in the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory, love and honour now and to the Ages. Amen.
Ascetic homilies of Saint Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Illyria. 100 Chapters, 2,300 lines.[59]

[1] Greek: energeias. According to the context, this activity is the activity of Holy Spirit on the person, not the efforts of the person himself to lead a pious life.
[2] Greek: upostases. Until now the author has used the more Western word, person (Greek: prosopon). He clearly means the same thing: the supposed co-existence of a personal principle of holiness, the Holy Spirit, and of a personal principal of evil, the Devil or Satan, in the one person. It should be remarked that the author’s see was on the Western side of mainland Greece and that it might very well have had communication with the West. Another possible interpretation is that previously the author was ‘dumbing down’ his terminology but as he goes on thinks he is able to speak more precisely and theologically.
[3] <gnomes'>. The text here has ‘knowledge (Greek: gnoseos)’. While the critical apparatus does not show our reading, it seems to be required by the text. As the author has already said, the Fall introduced a duality of the will towards good or evil. However, there is nothing in his doctrine of gnosis that would suggest that the Fall also introduced a duality of intuitive knowledge or illumination, although the author certainly recognizes the possibility of demonic delusion. Judgement (gnome) does bear the sense of a personal judgement leading to a choice made by the free will. See further below in this chapter, where the duality is applied to the memory.
[4] Greek: dianoemata.
[5] This is unclear.
[6] Literally, ‘the latter’.
[7] Literally, ‘the former’.
[8] ‘Very character’: Greek: charakter. This word means ‘engraving’, ‘engraved image’. The word is used by the Apostle Paul of the relation between Jesus Christ and the Father. Hence, here, the ‘very character’.
[9] ‘[Spiritual] assurance’: Greek: plerophoria. Here, the word means ‘consciousness’. I.e. while all the other virtues are received by means of the spiritual sense, the virtue of spiritual love is received only in a conscious illumination of the mind by the Holy Spirit. What is usually called, it seems, the Uncreated Light.
[10] This is unclear.
[11] This sentence is difficult, but it means that once the divine illumination of perfect love is added to the ‘according to the likeness’, then the soul has become a completely good resemblance to God in whose image it was created—as much, the author says, as this is possible to Man.
[12] The author means that since by the deprivation of Grace for the sake of our purification we no longer have any spiritual perception of perfect love, but even rather are tempted to the hatred of others, we must in this condition force ourselves to love so that we ultimately attain to the perfection of love in full consciousness and assurance.
[13] In the sense, evidently of the Confessors of the Faith who had gone to the stadium for martyrdom but who have survived alive.
[14] ‘Spiritual experience’: Greek: plerophoria. This is the second meaning of plerophoria—an actual illumination.
[15] Normally this refers to Adam and Eve before the Fall.
[16] I.e. after death.
[17] Greek: gnome. As we remarked previously, this word has to do with judgement leading to intention. In part it means the ‘intellectual attitude’ or ‘opinion’ on the basis of which one acts.
[18] Greek: gnostos gnonai. Thus the text. The author is emphasizing the desire to know consciously the love of the Lord.
[19] Greek: plerophoria.
[20] Greek: energeia, as elsewhere in this and other chapters.
[21]geuomenos)>’. Reading this on the basis of context and the author’s style instead of the text ‘becoming (genomenos)’.
[22] Thus the text.
[23] The author means that this condition of the experience of divine love unites the ascetic to God in the ascetic’s heart so that for the duration of the experience of being united to God he is beyond faith.
[24] Greek: potho. Here, this seems to mean affective ecstasy. The chapter is describing an advanced stage of mystic union. This chapter is difficult to render so that it reads easily and clearly but we have wanted to tamper as little as possible with such an important description of mystical union.
[25] The text does not have a referent for this verb. Perhaps it is the demons.
[26] I.e. the world.
[27] Greek: theorias.
[28] Greek: theoremata.
[29] Greek: chumati. This is one of the four humours, but as applied to the soul, not a matter of ‘humour’ as jokes or ‘humour’ as disposition.
[30] The text is a little difficult here. What the author means is that if we cannot be reconciled with the other party then, even if we are not at fault at all, we should introduce his face into our soul in a certain vague way so as to have it before us in love when we are praying. This does not seem to be a prescription to engage in visualization exercises but rather to keep the ‘idea’ of the person in our heart while we are praying.
[31] This is not a passage of Scripture, nor do any of the other editors or translators provide a citation. We are not aware of any work containing this passage.
[32] ‘Boldness of spirit’: parrisia. This is the good boldness before God.
[33] I.e. from the intermediate degree of love being discussed in this chapter to the first degree of love discussed in the previous chapter and elsewhere.
[34] Greek: energeia. It should be remarked that energeia is a philosophical concept having to do with the metaphysical nature of action. It doesn’t have the moral contextualization that we might suppose. That is, when the author writes that that something happens through the activity or energeia of the good, he doesn’t mean that it happens because we go to Church on time and so on and so forth—not that we shouldn’t—but that metaphysically something has an ontological activity—here, the good, including good practices—that has an effect, in the way we speak today, in a different metaphysics, of cause and effect. Energeia is an ontological not a moral concept. It means the action of something being what it is essentially; the concept is of course related to entelechy. Entelechy is what something is and does when it is and does what it is supposed to be and do: it is the perfection of the instantiation of an essence. Energeia is the action of something when it is in its entelechy.
[35] The author means that for those who have attained to the middle of the way of virtue, it is shown to be accessible and comfortable because the bad—which the author has already remarked does not exist substantially—is destroyed by the good habit (here he uses the word ‘custom’) together with the memory of the pleasures of procreation.
[36] Greek: thelemasi. This is the same word that we have been translating ‘acts of the will’. The author is fond of this sort of repetition of a word and its cognates.
[37] Greek: thelesis. The author does not use the language of ‘faculties’, which is a much later Western approach, but thelesis is the will as a faculty and thelema something willed by the thelesis.
[38] What the author is saying is that at a certain advanced spiritual stage, God heals the will so that virtue becomes easier and more joyful. We do not, however, think that the author means that the person is no longer capable of sin—that will happen in the Second Coming.
[39] Greek: astheneion.
[40] Elder Paisios (1924 – 1974) is said to have remarked that he received more spiritual benefit from his illnesses than from his (considerable) ascetic labours.
[41] Greek: astheneia.
[42] Greek: ekklesion.
[43] I.e. in our afflictions.
[44] I.e. the ascetic is humbled by his fellowship with God.
[45] Literally: ‘reproached’.
[46] This seems to mean that it is not merely a matter of long-suffering: the ascetic must accept his sufferings.
[47] Greek: logismon.
[48] Greek: ennoias.
[49] I.e. sloth.
[50] I.e. the ascetic. He is in such pain that he begins to suspect that he is being shot at with real arrows.
[51] Greek: euchesthai. This refers to the Jesus Prayer, as should be evident from the context.
[52] Greek: proseuche.
[53] Greek: euche.
[54] Thus the text. The author means that dispassion is a state in which the demons try and try and try—and don’t get anywhere.
[55] Greek: ennoia. Here ennoia means ‘meditation’ or ‘contemplation’ within the mind: a deep consideration of our coming death.
[56] Greek: kanonos. This is the customary rule of private prayer and asceticism of the monk.
[57] I.e. be conscious of no fault in himself, as further on in the quotation from St Paul.
[58] Note the legal language. The conscience is treated with legal concepts both in the text and in St Paul.
[59] This is the closing note in the manuscript. Illyria is present day Albania, somewhat north of Photiki.

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