Orthodox River

Gnostic Chapters - Diadochos of Photiki

by Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Epirus,

100 Gnostic Chapters

Definition 1: Faith. Dispassionate thought of God.
Definition 2: Hope. Departure of the mind in love towards those things which are hoped for.
Definition 3: Patience. To persevere in seeing unceasingly with the eyes of the intellect the invisible as visible.
Definition 4: Freedom from avarice. To want not to have just as someone wants to have.
Definition 5: Knowledge. To ignore oneself in ecstasy in God.
Definition 6: Humility. Forgetfulness of those things accomplished with care.
Definition 7: Lack of Anger. Great desire not to get angry.
Definition 8: Purity. Perception ever glued to God.
Definition 9: Love1. Increase of friendship towards those who are insulting.
Definition 10: Perfect transformation. In the pleasure of God, to consider the sourness of death as joy.
Words of judgement and discernment of Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Epirus. Through what quality of gnosis to arrive at the previously declared perfection, the Lord guiding us, so that each of us bring to fruition the seed of the word in accordance with the sense of the liberating parable.

  1. Brothers, let faith, hope and love guide every spiritual contemplation, above all love. The first two teach us to despise those goods which are visible; love, however, joins the soul to the virtues of God in investigating with a mental sense that which is invisible.
  2. Only God is by nature good. A man also becomes good through him who is in reality good, changed into that which he is not, by the care he bestows on his ways when through that care bestowed on the good the soul becomes as much in God as the power of this care wishes. For he says: ‘Become good and merciful as your Father who is in the Heavens.’
  3. Neither does evil exist in nature nor is anyone evil by nature. For God did not make an evil thing. But when in the desire of the heart someone brings into appearance2 that which does not exist in essence, then there begins to exist just that thing that the person making it might want. It is therefore obligatory to neglect the habit of evil through the care bestowed on the memory of God; for the nature of the good is stronger than the habit of evil, because the former exists while the latter does not exist except by being practised.
  4. We are all men in the image of God. To be in the likeness3 of God, however, is only of those who through much love enslave their freedom to God. When we are not of ourselves then we are of him who reconciled us to himself through love, which very thing one will not attain unless he has convinced his soul not to be shaken by the easy glory of this life.
  5. Free will is the will of a rational soul readily moved to whatever it might wish. Let us persuade that soul to be readily disposed only towards the good, so that we ever consume the memory of evil in good thoughts.
  6. The light of true gnosis4 is faultlessly to discern good from evil. For then the road of justice leading the mind to the Sun of Justice introduces the mind5 into the infinite light of gnosis, the mind with boldness thenceforward seeking love. It is therefore obligatory to seize with wrathless anger that which is just6 from those who dare to insult it; for the piety’s zeal, not hating but rebuking, shows the victory.
  7. The spiritual word brings assurance to the mental7 sense for it is brought from God by the activity of love, for which very reason our mind also sojourns uninjured in the movements of theology8. For the mind does not then suffer hunger, which brings care, being broadened in contemplations as much as the activity of love wishes. Therefore it is good ever to await with faith acting through love the illumination of what to say; for there is nothing poorer than an intellect9 outside of God philosophizing the things of God.
  8. Neither should one throw oneself unillumined into spiritual speculations10 nor should he come to speak when richly shone upon by the goodness of the Holy Spirit. For wherever poverty is, it brings ignorance; but wherever wealth is, it does not permit speech. For then the soul, drunk with the love of God, wishes to enjoy with silent voice the glory of God. It is therefore necessary to come to divine words in guarding the median of this activity.11 For this measure grants a certain form of glorious words. The wealth of enlightenment, however, nourishes the faith of him who speaks in faith, so that he who teaches, first tastes the fruits of gnosis through love. For he says: ‘The farmer who toils should first partake of the fruit.’
  9. The charisms are of the one Holy Spirit; however, wisdom and gnosis, just as all the divine charisms, each have their proper activity. For the Apostle bears witness that to one is given wisdom and to another gnosis according to the same Spirit. For gnosis joins a man to God by experience, not moving the soul to speech about these things. Therefore some of those who lead a life of monastic asceticism are sensibly illuminated by gnosis yet do not come to speak divine words. Wisdom, if in fear it is given to someone with gnosis (this is rare), manifests the very activities12 of gnosis, since the latter is accustomed to illuminate in activity, the former in word. But the prayer13 and much stillness in complete freedom from care bring gnosis, whereas meditation on the sayings of God which is free of vainglory and, first of all, the grace of God who gives, bring wisdom.
  10. When the temper is set in motion against the passions, it must be known that it is the hour of silence. When one sees that confusion coming to serenity either through the prayer or through almsgiving let him set the wing of the mind in motion in the love of the sayings of God, being secured with the bond of humility. For if one does not humiliate oneself greatly, he is not able to speak concerning the grandeur of God.
  11. The spiritual word ever preserves the soul free from vainglory; for benefiting all the parts of the soul in a perception14 of light it makes it not to have need of honour from men. And for that very reason it ever preserves the intellect free from fantasy, transforming it wholly into the love of God. The word of wisdom of the world, however, ever provokes a man to ambition. Because it is not able to benefit through experience of the [^spiritual or mental] sense,15 this word grants the love of praises to its familiars, itself being the creature of vainglorious men. Therefore, we will know without deception the disposition of the divine word if in a silence without care we consume the hours of not speaking in the warm remembrance of God.
  12. He who loves himself is not able to love God. He who does not love himself on account of the surpassing wealth of the love of God, this one loves God. He who loves God loves the glory of him who made him. The property16 of the soul which has the spiritual sense17 and which is loving of God is to seek the glory of God in all the commandments which it fulfils, yet to enjoy its own humility, because glory for the sake of grandeur is proper to God whereas humility is proper to man, so that through it we become intimate with God. Whatever we might do, as we rejoice unceasingly in the glory of the Lord let us also begin to say according to St John the Baptist: ‘He must be increased but we must be decreased.’
  13. I know someone who loves God so much, and who still mourns that he does not love as he wants, that unceasingly his soul is in such a warm desire that God be glorified in him and his own self be as not existing. This man does not know just what he is, not even in the actual praises that come from words. In the great desire for humility he does not think himself worthy but on the one hand serves18 God according to the law for priests, while on the other hand in a certain great disposition of love for God steals his own memory of his rank, in a spirit of humility hiding the boast that comes from this rank somewhere in the depth of love for God, so that always in his intellect he seems to himself to be an unworthy servant, estranged from his own rank in the desire for humility. And we, doing the very same thing, must avoid every honour and glory for the sake of the surpassing wealth of love of the Lord who loves us thus.
  14. He who loves the Lord in perception of heart19 is known by him. As much as someone accepts the love of God in perception of heart, that much he comes to be in the love of God. Therefore, henceforward such a person exists in a certain intense Eros20 for the illumination of gnosis, until he might perceive the very sense of his bones,21 no longer knowing himself but wholly transformed by the love of God. Such a person is both present in this life and not present; still sojourning in his own body he departs through love in the movement of the soul unceasingly towards God. For, unyielding, he adheres henceforward to God, burning the heart through the fire of love with a certain necessity of desire, once and for all having stood outside of friendship for himself in the love of God. For he says: ‘Whether we are beside ourselves, for God; whether we are of sound mind, for you.’
  15. When a person begins to perceive the love of God richly, then he begins to love his neighbour in perception of spirit.22 This is the love concerning which all the Scriptures speak. For friendship according to the flesh is dissolved quite easily, there having been found some slight cause; it is not bound by the perception of the spirit. For this reason, therefore, even if there should occur some irritation to a soul set into motion by the love of God, the bond of love is not loosed by it. For again setting fire to itself by the warmth of the love of God, it is recalled to the good and quickly seeks the love of the neighbour with great joy even if it should be greatly insulted or damaged by him. For in the sweetness of God it completely consumes the bitterness of the conflict.
  16. No one is able to love God in perception of heart not having first feared him in all his heart; for the soul, being purified and as it were softened through the activity of fear, comes to a love that is active. A person would not be able to come wholly to the fear of God in the way spoken of if he did not come to be outside all the cares of this life. For when the mind comes to be in much stillness and freedom from care, then does the fear of God trouble it, purifying it from every earthly grossness in much perception, so that this fear thus leads it to much love of the goodness of God. So the fear of those who are yet being purified is with a middle degree of love; but perfect love is of those who have been completely purified, in whom there is no fear. For he says: ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ Both degrees are of the righteous only, those who assiduously work the virtues in the activity of the Holy Spirit. And for this reason, in one place Scripture says: ‘Fear you the Lord, all his saints;’ in another place: ‘Love you the Lord, all his holy ones;’—so that we learn clearly that the fear of the righteous who are still being purified is with a middle degree of love, as was said; whereas perfect love is of those who have been purified, in whom there is no longer a thought of fear of any kind, but ceaseless burning and adhesion of the soul towards God through the activity of the Holy Spirit according to him who says: ‘My soul has adhered behind you; your right hand has defended me.’
  17. Just as wounds which occur to the body, when they might after a fashion be like unirrigated land23 and neglected, do not perceive the medicine brought forth to them by the physician, but, having been cleansed, then perceive the activity of the medicine and come to rapid healing on account of it, thus also the soul, as long as it is neglected and wholly covered with the leprosy of the love of pleasure, is not able to perceive the fear of God, even if someone should unceasingly announce to it the frightful and strong judgement seat of God. But whenever the mind begins to be purified through great attention, then it perceives the divine fear as a certain medicine of life burning it in the activity of reproaches in the fire of dispassion24.25 Whence, henceforward being purified bit by bit it arrives at the perfection of purification, having been so much increased in love as it is decreased in fear, so that it should finally arrive at perfect love, in which is no fear, as has been said, but complete dispassion set into motion through the glory of God. Therefore first let the fear of God be for us as the boast of ceaseless boasts, then, however, love, the fullness of the law of perfection in Christ.
  18. The soul which has not been freed from worldly cares will neither love God genuinely nor loathe the Devil appropriately; for it has once and for all an oppressive veil, the care of worldly affairs. Whence, among these sorts of people the mind is unable to know the judgement of itself so that by itself it might try the votes of the judgement without deception.26 Therefore solitude is always useful.
  19. The property of a pure soul: abundant word, guileless zeal, unceasing Eros for the Lord of Glory. Then, indeed, the mind sets its own scales exactly, appearing in its own intellect as in a most pure tribunal.27
  20. Faith without works and works without faith are rejected in the same way. For the faithful must offer to the Lord faith that demonstrates realities. For neither was faith reckoned for righteousness to Abraham our father until he had brought forth its fruit, his son.
  21. He who loves God both believes genuinely and accomplishes the works of faith in a holy manner. He who only believes and does not abide in love does not even have the faith he thinks he has. For he believes with a certain lightness of mind not set into motion by the weight of the glory of love. Faith set into motion by love is the greatest of the virtues.
  22. Investigated, the depth of the sea of faith is turbulent; viewed with a simple disposition it becomes serene. Being the water of Lethe (forgetfulness) of evils, the depth of faith does not bear to be seen by curious thoughts. Therefore let us be filled with its waters in simplicity of intellect so that we thus arrive at the harbour of the will of God.
  23. No one is able either to love or to believe genuinely unless he does not have himself as an accuser of himself. For when our conscience agitates itself in reproaches, the mind is not yet allowed to perceive the odour of the goods above this world but is immediately divided in doubt, on the one hand having with a warm movement an appetite for faith on account of the experience which it has already received, on the other hand not yet being able to attain it in perception of heart through love on account of, as I said, the prickings of the reproaching conscience. Still, when we purify ourselves with a warmer attention and have had greater experience in God we will gain what is desired.
  24. Just as the senses of the body impel us somewhat violently towards those things which appear good, thus once it has tasted the divine goodness the sense of the mind has the custom to guide us towards the invisible goods. For at all costs each has an appetite for its familiar relatives, the soul, as bodiless, the heavenly goods but the body, as dust, earthly food. We will come without deception into experience of the immaterial sense if we indeed refine the material with ascetic efforts.
  25. The activity of holy gnosis teaches us that the natural sense of the soul is one, but that on account of the disobedience of Adam it thenceforward has been divided in two activities. One activity is simple, coming to occur in the soul from the Holy Spirit, which activity no one is able to know except those who have sweetly been freed from the good things of this life for the sake of the future goods and who have dried up all the appetite of the bodily senses through temperance. Only among these persons can the mind, set in motion on account of the freedom from care, healthily sense in an unspeakable way the divine goodness, whence they then transfer their own joy to the body according to the measure of their own progress, exulting in the confession of love with a certain infinite word. For he says: ‘For my heart has hoped on him and I was helped and my flesh has been made to flourish and I will willingly confess to him.’ For the joy which in reality then occurs to the soul and to the body is a reminder of the incorruptible life of the spirit.

  1. Greek: agape. ↩︎

  2. Greek: eidos. This is an indication, if one is needed, of Diadochos’ education. He is contrasting ousia, essence, with eidos, form, appearance. Eidos applies to the multiplicity of actual objects that exist in the world. Hence, what Diadochos is saying is that the object that the technician wishes to make does not exist in essence, but the technician conceives it in his heart and then brings it into being through his art as eidos, as one of the manifold objects existing in the world. Similarly evil has no essential existence, since all that God made is good. Evil exists only as the consequence of the exercise of free will; that is the significance of ‘habit (Greek: eksis)’ and ‘practised’. Habit is a pattern of acts of the free will; ‘practised’ means ‘done by the will’. ↩︎

  3. Greek: omoiosin. ↩︎

  4. The Greek word gnosis means knowledge. In this work there is a clear distinction between intuitive knowledge and knowledge arrived at through reasoning or books. In this and similar passages, the author is referring to intuitive spiritual knowledge. ↩︎

  5. Greek: nous. This is the created spirit of man, his innermost being. ↩︎

  6. I.e. it is necessary to be zealous for what is true and just. ↩︎

  7. Greek: noeran. This could be translated ‘spiritual’. The ‘mental sense’ or ‘spiritual sense’ is a faculty of the mind or nous by means of which one perceives spiritual things. ↩︎

  8. Greek: theologia. In this epoch (mid-5th Century), theologia is used to refer not to academic theology but to words spoken about God based on experience of God. It is also used in this school of mysticism for unitive prayer to God. ↩︎

  9. Greek: dianoia. This is the conscious aspect of the human mind, including its ability to reason. ↩︎

  10. The Greek word literally means ‘contemplations’, but in the sense of words spoken in academic theology, not in the sense of visions of God. ↩︎

  11. I.e. neither in ignorance of God nor when full of divine illumination. ↩︎

  12. Greek: energeies. Similarly for the singular. ↩︎

  13. Greek: euche. It will be clear that St Diadochos means the Prayer of Jesus, which he will proceed to discuss. ↩︎

  14. This would be with the spiritual or mental sense. ↩︎

  15. What St Diadochos means is that the wisdom of the world is not able to benefit through real spiritual experience consciously experienced with the spiritual or mental sense. ↩︎

  16. Greek: idion. This is a philosophical term. It means the characteristic that belongs to something as part of its nature. ↩︎

  17. The author treats attainment to the spiritual or mental sense as a certain level of spiritual attainment. Following Evagrius, we would treat this as dispassion. See Kephalaia Gnostica I, 37. ↩︎

  18. Greek: leitourgei. I.e. serves as a priest. It appears that the author is speaking of himself, so, here, serves as a bishop. ↩︎

  19. See our remarks on the spiritual or mental sense. The same thing is intended. ↩︎

  20. Greek: eros. This is the word used for marital love. What the author is saying is that the person who has reached this stage henceforth has a burning, ardent desire for the illumination of gnosis. ↩︎

  21. The author means that this burning, ardent desire for gnosis is such that the person wishes, if he could, to know God consciously even in his bones. ↩︎

  22. This would be yet another phase of the spiritual or mental sense. What is important is that St Diadochos means that these things happen as conscious spiritual phenomena and not with the bodily senses. ↩︎

  23. The Greek isn’t very clear. ↩︎

  24. Dispassion: Greek: apatheia. ↩︎

  25. The Greek text of this part of the sentence is not clear. ↩︎

  26. I.e. so that by itself the conscience might provide a true judgement of the person’s condition. ↩︎

  27. I.e. having been completely purified, the conscience gives a true witness to the soul’s condition. ↩︎