Orthodox River

Third Century

by St Thalassios the Libyan

On Love, Self-control and Life in Accordance with the intellect (νούς)

Third Century

  1. Think good thoughts about what is good by nature, and think well of every man.

  2. On the day of judgment we shall be asked by God to answer for our words, acts and thoughts.

  3. Whether we think, speak or act in a good or an evil manner depends upon whether we cleave inwardly to virtue or to vice.

  4. An intellect (νούς) dominated by the passions thinks base thoughts; words and actions bring these thoughts into the open.

  5. An evil thought is preceded by passion. The passion is caused by the senses, but the misuse of the senses is clearly the falllt of the intellect (νούς).

  6. Shut out the senses, fight against prepossession and, with the commandments as your weapons, destroy the passions.

  7. Inveterate wickedness requires long practice of the virtues; for an engrained habit is not easily uprooted.

  8. The forceful practice of self-control and love, patience and stillness (ήσθχία), will destroy the passions hidden within us.

  9. Impel your intellect (νούς) continually to prayer and you will destroy the evil thoughts that beset your heart.

  10. Ascetic practice requires long and patient endurance: assiduous struggle will slowly root out self-indulgence.

  11. You will not find the rigors of the ascetic life hard to bear if you do all things with measure and by rule.

  12. Maintain a regular level of ascetic practice and do not break your rule unless forced to do so.

  13. Just as love and self-control destroy evil thought so contemplation (θεωριά) and prayer destroy all self-exaltation.

  14. Ascetic struggle - fasting, vigils, patience, forbearance -produces a clear conscience.

  15. He who patiently endures unsought trials becomes humble, full of hope and spiritually mature.

  16. Patient endurance is a continuous effort for the soul; it is born of suffering freely chosen and of trials that come unsought.

  17. Perseverance in the face of adversity dissolves evil, while unremitting patience destroys it utterly.

  18. The experience of suffering afflicts the senses: distress annuls sensual pleasure.

  19. There are four prevalent passions which God in His wisdom sets one against the other.

  20. Distress checks sensual pleasure; the fear of punishment withers desire.

  21. The wise intellect (νούς) tests the soul and trains the body with all kinds of ascetic practice.

  22. Prove yourself a monk, not outwardly, but inwardly, by freeing yourself from the passions.

  23. The first renunciation is that of material things, the second that of the passions, the third that of ignorance.

  24. It is not difficult to get rid of material things if you so desire; but only with great effort will you be able to get rid of thoughts about them.

  25. Control desire and you will dominate anger; for desire gives rise to anger.

  26. We may have freed ourselves from impassioned thoughts; but have we yet been granted pure and immaterial prayer?

  27. Great is the intellect (νούς) that is freed from the passions, has separated itself from created beings, and lives in God.

  28. The person advancing in the spiritual life studies three things: the commandments, doctrine, and faith in the Holy Trinity the contemplation (θεωριά) of created beings, and its own light.

  29. The foulest passions ore bidden within our souls; they are brought to light only when we scrutinize our actions.

  30. Sometimes the intellect (νούς) that has attained a partial dispassion will remain undisturbed; but this is because, in the absence of the things that provoke it, it is not put to the test.

  31. As has been said, our passions are roused through these three things: the memory, the body’s temperament, and the senses.

  32. The intellect (νούς) that has shut out the senses, and has achieved a balance in the body’s temperament, has to fight only against its memories.

  33. It is when self-control and spiritual love are missing that the passions are roused by the senses.

  34. Moderate fasting, vigils and psalmody are natural means for achieving a balance in the body’s temperament.

  35. Three things upset the balance of the body’s temperament: lack of restraint in our diet, a change in the weather, and the touch of the demonic powers.

  36. Our memories can be stripped of passion through prayer, spiritual reading, self-control and love.

  37. First shut out the senses through the practice of stillness (ήσθχία) and then fight against your memories by cultivating the virtues.

  38. To misuse conceptual images and material things is to use them in a profane and improper manner.

  39. Reprehensible passions chain the intellect (νούς), binding it to sensible objects.

  40. The person who is not affected either by material things, or by his memories of them, has attained perfect dispassion.

  41. A saint-like soul helps its neighbor and when ill-treated by him is patient, enduring what it suffers at his hands.

  42. Malicious thoughts are a fully existent form of evil: if you do not get rid of them you will not become a disciple of spiritual knowledge.

  43. The person who listens to Christ fills himself with light; and if he imitates Christ, he reclaims himself.

  44. Rancor is the soul’s leprosy. The soul contracts it as the result of disgrace or punishment, or because of suspicious thoughts.

  45. The Lord blinds the intellect (νούς) that is jealous and resentful of its neighbor’s blessings.

  46. The tongue of a back-biting soul is three-pronged: it injures the speaker, the listener and sometimes the person being maligned.

  47. He who prays for those who offend him is without rancor; and the unstinting giver is set free from it.

  48. Hatred-for one’s neighbor soul’s death; the back-biting soul both suffers and inflicts such death.

  49. He who loves Jesus trains himself in suffering: perseverance in suffering dispels listlessness.

  50. The soul is strengthened through ascetic suffering, and dispels listlessness by doing all things according to measure.

  51. Control of the belly withers desire and keeps the intellect (νούς) free from lecherous thoughts.

  52. An intellect (νούς) in control of itself is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but that of a glutton is like a nest of crows.

  53. A surfeit of foods breeds desire; a deficiency sweetens even plain bread.

  54. If you share secretly in the joy of someone you envy, you will be freed from your jealousy; and you will also be freed from your jealousy if you keep silent about the person you envy.

  55. Shun whoever lives dissolutely, even if many hold him in high esteem.

  56. Make a friend of the man who works hard and you will find protection.

  57. The dissolute man is sold to many masters and lives his life in whatever way they lead him.

  58. Such a man will treat you as a friend in the time of peace, but in the time of trial he will fight you as an enemy.

  59. When his passions are quiescent, he will lay down his life for you; when they are roused, he will take it back again.

  60. A dissolute soul is as full of impure passions as waste land is full of thistles.

  61. A wise intellect (νούς) restrains the soul, keeps the body in subjection, and makes the passions its servants.

  62. Our actions disclose what goes on within us, just as its fruit makes known a tree otherwise unknown to us.

  63. The hypocrite, like the false prophet, is betrayed by his words and actions.

  64. An intellect (νούς) that does not use its intelligence (λογικός) fails to chastise the soul, and so prevents it from acquiring love and self-control.

  65. The cause of depraved thoughts is an evil disposition made up of pride and boastfulness.

  66. Pride and boastfulness are characterized by hypocrisy, guile, trickery, pretence and, worst of all, falsity.

  67. These characteristics are aided and abetted by envy, strife, anger, resentment and rancor.

  68. Such is the state of those who live dissolutely, and such are the treasures hidden in my heart (cf Matt. 12:35).

  69. Hardship and humility save the soul and free it from all the passions.

  70. A helpful word indicates an understanding mind; a good action reveals a saint-like soul.

  71. An illumined intellect (νούς) brings forth words of wisdom; a pure soul cultivates godlike thoughts.

  72. The thoughts of a wise man are devoted to wisdom, and his words enlighten those who hear them.

  73. A virtuous soul cultivates good thoughts; a soul full of evil breeds thoughts of depravity.

  74. An impassioned soul produces evil thoughts: it is a fund of evil.

  75. The virtues possess a fund of goodness from which the holy intellect (νούς) brings forth blessings produces diabolic thoughts.

  76. When the intellect (νούς) is moved by love for its neighbor, it always thinks well of him: but when it is under diabolic influence it entertains evil thoughts about him.

  77. The virtues generate good thoughts; the commandments lead us to the virtues; the practice of the virtues depends on our own will and resolution.

  78. As virtue and evil come and go, they dispose the soul either to goodness or to malice, prompting in it the corresponding thoughts.

  79. Evil begets evil thoughts; disobedience begets evil; the deceit of the senses gives, rise to disobedience; and this deceit derives from the intellect (νούς)’s neglect of its own salvation.

  80. In the case of those advancing on the spiritual way, their attitude to good and evil is easily changed; but in those who have achieved perfection it is hard to shift.

  81. The soul’s strength is its firm state of virtue; on reaching such a state one may say with the invincible apostle Paul; ‘What can separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35).

  82. Self-love precedes all the passions, while last of all comes pride,

  83. The three most common forms of desire have their origin in the passion of self-love though they do not all follow each of them.

  84. The thought of unchastity follows that of gluttony; of pride, that of self-esteem. The others all follow the three most common forms.

  85. Thus thoughts of resentment, anger, rancor, envy, listless-ness and the rest all follow these three most common forms.

A Prayer

  1. Christ, Master of all, free us from all these destructive passions and the thoughts born of them.

  2. For Thy sake we came into being, so that we might delight in the paradise which Thou hast planted and in which Thou hast placed us.

  3. We brought our present disgrace upon ourselves, preferring destruction to the delights of blessedness.

  4. We have paid for this, for we have exchanged eternal life for death.

  5. 0 Master, as once Thou hast looked on us, look on us now; as Thou becamest man, save all of us.

  6. For Thou camest to save us who were lost. Do not exclude us from the company of those who are being saved.

  7. Raise up our souls and save our bodies, cleansing us from all impurity.

  8. Break the fetters of the passions that constrain us, as once Thou hast broken the ranks of the impure demons.

  9. Free us from their tyranny, so that we may worship Thee alone, the eternal light.

lOO. Having risen from the dead and dancing with the angels in the blessed, eternal and indissoluble dance. Amen.