Orthodox River

Various Texts on Theology Fifth Century

  1. Through the diligent practice of the virtues the natural intelligence is raised towards the intellect. Through contemplation the intellect leads towards wisdom the man who aspires to spiritual knowledge. Passion, which is contrary to the intelligence, induces the man who neglects the commandments to descend to the realm of the senses, and the result of this is the intellect’s attachment to sensual pleasure.

  2. Virtue is a stable and utterly dispassionate state of righteousness. Nothing stands opposed to it, for it bears the stamp of God, and there is nothing contrary to that. God is the cause of the virtues: and a living knowledge of God is realized when the person who has truly recognized God changes his inner state so that it conforms more closely to the Spirit.

  3. If intelligence has determined the origin of each created being, no such being by nature either goes beyond itself or falls short of itself. Thus the norm for created things is their desire and knowledge of their Cause, and their measure is the active imitation of their Cause in so far as this is within their scope. For if created beings are carried in their desire beyond the proper norm and measure, this makes their life fruitless, since then they do not find their goal in God - and it is in God that the desire of all things finds its repose, receiving the enjoyment of Him as its self-subsistent consummation. When created beings in their desire fall short of the norm and measure, their life is again fruitless, since then they find their goal not in God but in the realm of the senses, in which there is a pleasurable but illusory enjoyment of the passions.

  4. An intellect consecrated -unconditionally to the Cause of created beings will be in a state of complete unknowing, since it will not contemplate any creative principle in God who, so far as all causation is concerned, Is in essence beyond such principles. When an intellect is drawn away from all created beings towards God, it does not observe their inner principles, but only contemplates God ineffably, being with Him by grace. For the intellect that reaches up to God in ecstasy relinquishes its knowledge of the inner principles of both corporeal and incorporeal things. For nothing sequent to God can be contemplated simultaneously with God.

  5. Conceit is a truly accursed passion. It is a combination of two vices, pride and self-esteem. Pride denies the Cause of virtue and nature, while self-esteem adulterates nature and virtue itself. A proud man does nothing that accords with God’s will, and a man full of self-esteem achieves nothing that accords with nature.

  6. The mark of pride is to deny that God is the author of virtue and nature; the mark of self-esteem is to make divisions in nature and so to treat some things as worthless. Conceit is their natural offspring, being an evil state composed of a voluntary denial of God and ignorance of the equal dignity that things possess by nature.

  7. Conceit is a mixture of pride and self-esteem. In its contempt for God It blasphemously maligns providence; while in its alienation from nature it treats everything belonging to nature in an unnatural way, and thus corrupts its beauty by misuse.

  8. The spirit of scorching heat (cf. Jonah 4:8) signifies not only trials and temptations but also that abandonment by God which deprived the Jews of the gifts of grace. Affinity with the Spirit dissolves the soul’s proclivity for the flesh, concentrates our longing on God and binds our will to Him.

  9. When the intelligence is not dominated by the senses, the natural law persuades all men instinctively to embrace what is akin to them and of the same species, since nature itself teaches men to help those in need. In addition, the natural law persuades every man to wish for everybody else whatever he considers agreeable when done to him by others. This is what the Lord teaches when He says, “Treat others as you want them to treat you’ (Luke 6:31).

  10. The work of the natural law is to bring into harmony all men’s voluntary relationships with one another. Those whose nature is governed by the intelligence naturally share a single disposition. When men have the same disposition, their morality and living will obviously be of one kind. In such circumstances, the bond linking people together voluntarily will also be one and the same, leading all men through-their own volition towards the single principle of nature. When that principle is realized, the divisions now prevailing in nature because of man’s self-love will totally vanish. The written law, which controls the unruly impulses of the foolish by fear of punishment, accustoms them by its teaching to think specifically about giving to each other what is equitable. In this way with the passing of time the rule of justice grows ever more firmly established within them, until it becomes part of their nature. It turns fear into a disposition which is gently and gradually strengthened by a conscious desire for the good, and habit into an inner state purified by a forgetfulness of past sins and giving birth within itself to a love for others.

  11. The written law, by preventing wrongdoing through fear, accustoms one to do what is right. In time such custom produces a disposition filled with the love of righteousness, and this in turn produces a settled state of goodness, obliterating the memory of past sins.

  12. The law of grace directly teaches those who are led by it to imitate God Himself. For - if it is permitted to speak in this way - despite the fact that because of sin we were His enemies, God loved us so much more than Himself that, although He is beyond every being, He entered without changing into our being, supra-essentially took on human nature, became man and, wishing to reveal Himself as a man among men, did not refuse to make His own the penalty we pay. And as in His providence He became man, so He deified us by grace, in this way teaching us not only to cleave to one another naturally and to love others spiritually as ourselves, but also, like God, to be more concerned for others than for ourselves, and as proof of our love for each other readily to choose, as virtue enjoins, to die for others. For, as Scripture tells us, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend (cf. John 11:13).

  13. To recapitulate: the law of nature is a natural principle which takes control of the sense-realm in order to overcome its lack of intelligence; for lack of intelligence sunders what by nature belongs together. The written law is a natural principle which, when the lack of intelligence in the sense-realm has been overcome, acquires in addition the spiritual desire which maintains the reciprocity and interdependence of kindred beings. The law of grace is a principle transcending nature whose purpose is our deification. It transforms nature without altering its fundamental character; and, in a manner which defies comprehension, reveals to human nature, as if in an image, the archetype that lies beyond being and nature and is the ground of eternal well-being.

  14. To treat one’s neighbor as oneself is to be concerned simply with his existence. This pertains to the natural law. To love one’s neighbor as oneself is to care, in a way that accords with virtue, for his well-being. This is prescribed by the written law (cf. Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:33). To love one’s neighbor more than oneself is a prerogative of the law of grace.

  15. He who curbs the impulses towards bodily pleasure learns the laws of providence, which restrain the inflammatory matter of the passions. He who accepts the whips of bodily pain is taught the laws of judgment, which cleanse him from the defilement of his earlier life through unsought sufferings.

  16. Scripture represents Jonah as grieving on account of the booth and the gourd - that is to say, on account of the flesh and the pleasure of the flesh - and it represents God as caring for Nineveh (cf. Jonah 4:1-11). From this it is clear that, compared with the things valued and prized by men, what is loved by God is better and more precious by far. For the things that men value lack being; they only seem to exist because of mistaken judgment, but have no principle of existence at all: there is only the fantasy, which cheats the intellect and through passion supplies non-existent things with empty form but no real substance.

  17. An accurate knowledge of the utterances of the Spirit is revealed only to those who are worthy of the Spirit. When through diligent cultivation of the virtues they have swept the soot of the passions from their intellect, and have made it like a pure, resplendent mirror, they receive the knowledge of divine things which, as soon as it strikes them, is imprinted upon them and given form in them as a face is reflected in a mirror. Those whose life is smutted by the passions may possibly deduce knowledge of divine things by means of plausible guesswork; but they cannot grasp or express such knowledge with any accuracy.

  18. A man whose intellect has been formed by the knowledge that comes by dint of the virtues through the divine Spirit is said to experience divine things; for he has acquired such knowledge not by nature, thanks simply to his existence, but by grace, thanks to his participation in it. When a man has not received knowledge by grace, even though he calls a particular thing spiritual, he does not know its true character from experience, for mere learning does not produce a state of spiritual knowledge.

  19. An intellect totally purified by the virtues is automatically initiated into their inner principles, and conies to express in its own character the spiritual knowledge which is divinely stamped with their impress. For in itself every intellect is formless and without any specific quality of expression: its form is acquired, being either that of the knowledge which arises from the virtues through the Spirit, or that of ignorance, which supervenes through the passions.

  20. Everyone who has fallen away from divine love is ruled through sensual pleasure by the carnal law. With such a law, he cannot keep a single divine commandment, nor does he wish to: preferring a life of pleasure to a life tuled by virtue and lived in the Spirit of God, he embraces ignorance instead of knowledge.

  21. A person who does not penetrate with his intellect towards the divine and spiritual beauty contained within the letter of the Law develops a propensity for pleasure - that is, an attachment to the world and a love of worldly things; for his knowledge derives merely from the literal expression of the Law.

  22. The name Mephibosheth, meaning ‘ignominy of mouth’ (cf. 2 Sam. 4:4) signifies the intellect’s preoccupation with thoughts devoted to the world and to bodily indulgence. When we do not penetrate with our intellect beyond the material form exhibited in the letter of the Law, such a world-loving disposition and such preoccupation with thoughts of sensual indulgence are bound to develop in accordance with the proclivity of our will. For our intellect will be preoccupied with whatever it is we gravitate towards.

  23. Or again, ‘ignominy of mouth’ signifies that impulsion of the intellect which gives form to the passions and moulds beauty in a way that accords with sensual pleasure. For without the intellect’s inventive power no passion can assume form. The name of Mephibosheth’s brother Armoni, meaning ‘anathema’ (cf. 2 Sam. 21:8), signifies the gross, ugly and shapeless impulsion of the passions; while ‘ignominy of mouth’ signifies that impulsion of the intellect which gives form to the passion so that it can be perceived by the senses, and which in the shape of mental images provides the passion with suitable matter to work on.

  24. Anyone who believes that the sacrifices, feasts, Sabbaths, and celebrations of the new moon specified in the Law have been instituted by God for the sake of physical license and relaxation will fall completely into the power of the passions, and will be ignominiously polluted by the shameful thoughts they stimulate. He will be in the sway of the corruptible world and preoccupied with thoughts of bodily indulgence. Dominated by the matter and form of passion, he will be unable to value anything except what is subject to decay. senses, and which in the shape of mental images provides the passion with suitable matter to work on.

  25. He who persuades himself that physical self-indulgence is commanded by God in the Law gleefully accepts gluttony as a gift from God. In this spirit he develops forms of behavior which pollute the senses through misuse. senses, and which in the shape of mental images provides the passion with suitable matter to work on.

  26. When the soul’s contemplative faculty embraces self-indulgence as a divine command, it makes an unnatural use of the senses, not allowing them to express themselves at all in accordance with nature. In these circumstances the soul’s contemplative faculty begets an implicit or else an active state of passion, and accepts gluttony as a divine prescription, thus developing forms of behavior that defile the senses by misuse and destroy the natural principles and seeds in created beings.

  27. Nobody can embrace the least natural principle or thought if he devotes himself merely to a literal observance of the Law, since symbols and nature are not identical. Because of the difference between symbols and Ac nature of created beings, a person who stops short at the symbols of the Law is incapable of a noetic vision of the nature of created beings and cannot encompass the inner essences implanted in them by their Creator.

  28. He whose God is his belly and who prides himself on his ignominy as if it were something splendid (cf. Phil. 3:19) is merely cleaving to the shameful passions as if they were divine. Because of this he pursues only what is temporal, that is to say, matter and form and the perverted impulses of the five senses. When the senses combine with matter and form they produce passion, killing and effacing natural principles. For, in accordance with the principle of being, passion and nature in no way coexist with each other: the principle of nature is never naturally conjoined with passion, and passion is never co-engendered with nature.

  29. He who does not believe that the scriptures are spiritual is unaware of his lack of spiritual knowledge, yet wastes away with hunger. Strictly speaking, however, hunger is a deprivation of blessings that we already know by experience and a total absence and dearth of the spiritual nourishment that sustains the soul. How, then, can one regard as hunger or loss one’s complete destitution with regard to what one has never once known in any way at all?

  30. The truly hungry are the faithful who have already acquired knowledge of the truth. So, too, is the soul of every man who has abandoned the grace of spiritual contemplation and become a slave to the literal and external forms of religion; for he does not nourish his intellect with the splendor of his intellections, but imbues his perception with impassioned fantasies derived from the material aspects of scriptural symbols.

  31. Everyone who does not apply himself to the spiritual con-templation of Holy Scripture has, Judaic-wise, also rejected both the natural and the written law; and he is ignorant of the law of grace which confers deification on those who are obedient to it. He who understands the written law in a literal manner does not nourish his soul with the virtues. He who does not grasp the inner principles of created beings fails to feast his intellect on the manifold wisdom of God. And he who is ignorant of the great mystery of the new grace does not rejoice in the hope of future deification. Thus failure to contemplate the written law spiritually results in a dearth of the divine wisdom to be apprehended in the natural law; and this in its turn is followed by a complete ignorance of the deification given by grace according to the new mystery.

  32. Every intellect endowed by the grace of Christ with discriminative and penetrating vision, always desires said seeks the face of the Lord. The face of the Lord is true contemplation and Spiritual knowledge of divine things attained through virtue. When one seeks this contemplation and knowledge one learns the cause of one’s destitution and dearth. For just as the face is the distinctive feature of each person, so spiritual knowledge Is tho special characteristic of what is divine. He who seeks such knowledge is said to seek the face of the Lord. But the person who has become carnal through bloody sacrifices performed in accordance with the letter of the Law possesses the ignorance which he desires; for he accepts commandments only for the pleasure they give to the flesh and he confines his perception literally to the material sense of the written word.

  33. In the case of the person who confines himself to a literal observance of the Law, the matter which. he engenders is the act of sin that he commits:, while the form that he devises in a materialistic fashion is the intellect’s assent to the sensual pleasures that attract him to the act of sin. He who understands Scripture in a spiritual way puts to death both the act of sin, which corresponds to matter, and the assent to it, which corresponds to form; and he also puts to death the misuse of the senses for the sake of pleasure. He does this by means of thoughts that by nature pertain to higher levels of contemplation.

  34. Once the external observance of the letter of the Law has been superseded, together with the ignorance that goes with it, it is then possible to put an end to the matter and form of which we have been speaking, as well as to the five ways of misusing the five senses with regard to matter and form - and by this I mean the impassioned and unnatural association of the senses with sensible things subject to time and change. The spiritual law, or intellect, destroys this association by means of the higher principles and thoughts which are found in natural contemplation. In this way the intellect, when it has attained the heights of the law of spiritual contemplation, destroys man’s all-pervasive subjection, established through the symbols of temporal things, to sense-perception and to the outward form of things.

  35. Without natural contemplation no one can appreciate the disparity between the symbols through which the Law is expressed and the divine realities which these symbols represent. Further, if through such contemplation a man has not first discerned this disparity and, denying his sense-perception all access to the hidden realm of divine and intelligible realities, does not long to penetrate with his intellect into its beauty, he cannot be liberated completely from the external diversity to be found in the symbols. So long as he cleaves to the letter, his inner hunger for spiritual knowledge will not be satisfied; for he has condemned himself like the wily serpent to feed on the earth - that is, on the outward or literal form - of Scripture (cf. Gen. 3:14), and does not, as a true disciple of Christ, feed on heaven - that is, on the spirit and soul of Scripture, in other words, on celestial and angelic bread. I mean that he does not feed through Christ on the spiritual contemplation and knowledge of the Scriptures, which God gives unstintingly to those who love Him, in accordance with the text: ‘He gave them the bread of heaven; man ate the food of angels’ (Ps. 78:24-25. LXX).

  36. Interpretation of the outward form of Scripture according to the norms of: sense-perception must be superseded, for it clearly promotes the passions as well as proclivity towards what is temporal and transient. That is to say, we must destroy the impassioned activity of the senses with regard to sensible objects, as if destroying the children and grandchildren of Saul (cf. 2 Sam. 21:1-9); and we must do this by ascending to the heights of natural contemplation through a mystical interpretation of divine utterances, if in any way we desire to be filled with divine grace.

  37. When the Law is understood only according to the letter, it is hostile to the truth, as the Jews were, and as is anyone else who possesses their mentality. For such a person limits the Law’s power merely to the letter, and does not advance to natural contemplation, which reveals the spiritual knowledge hidden mystically in the letter; for this contemplation mediates between figurative representations of the truth and the truth itself, and leads its adepts away from the first and towards the second. On the contrary, he rejects natural contemplation altogether and so excludes himself from initiation into divine realities. Those who diligently aspire to a vision of these realities must therefore destroy the outward and, evanescent interpretation of the Law, Subject to time and change; and they must do this by means of natural contemplation, having ascended to the heights of spiritual knowledge.

  38. A man totally obliterates the outward or literal sense of Scripture when through the practice of natural contemplation he destroys his soul’s pleasure-provoked and body-indulging subjection - promoted by the written Law - to the restless and evanescent world of materiality. In this way he slays, as though it were Saul’s children and grandchildren, his earth-bound understanding of the Law. At the same time, through this natural, contemplation on the heights of spiritual knowledge, he openly confesses his error of previously interpreting the Law according to its outward form. For the text, ‘to hang them before the Lord’ (cf. 2 Sam. 21:9), may be understood to mean this: to bring into the light by means of spiritual knowledge his preoccupation with the letter of the Law and the prejudice from which he suffers as a result. This is to show that, thanks to contemplation, the letter of the Law has been killed by spiritual knowledge.

  39. ‘The letter kills.” says Scripture, “but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor. 3:6). Consequently, the letter whose nature it is to kill must be killed by the life-giving Spirit. For what is material in the Law and what is divine - namely, the letter and the Spirit - cannot coexist, nor can what destroys life be reconciled with that which by nature bestows life.

  40. The Spirit bestows life, the letter destroys it. Thus the letter cannot function at the same time as the Spirit, just as what gives life cannot coexist with what destroys life and the prejudice from which he suffers as a result. This is to show that, thanks to contemplation, the letter of the Law has been killed by spiritual knowledge.

  41. Circumcision, in its mystical sense, is the complete cutting away of the intellect’s impassioned attachment to all that comes into being in a contingent manner. Viewing things on the natural level, we recognize that the removal of an attribute naturally bestowed by God does not produce perfection. For nature does not bring about perfection when it is mutilated by human ingenuity, or when through over-subtlety men deprive it of something conferred on it by God at creation. Otherwise we would be attributing to human ingenuity more power to establish a perfect order of things than to God, and to an ingenious mutilation of nature the ability to make good shortcomings in God’s creation. But if we understand circumcision figuratively, we learn that we .are spiritually to circumcise the impassioned disposition of our soul. In this way our will, having freed the intellect from its impassioned subjection to the law that rules the birth of contingent things, is brought into harmony with nature.

  42. Uncircumcision is natural. Everything that is natural is the work of divine creation and is excellent: ‘And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good’ (Gen. 1:31). But the Law, by demanding on the grounds of uncleanness that the foreskin should be cutaway by circumcision (cf. Gen. 17:10-14), presents God as amending His own work through human skill. This is a most blasphemous way of looking at things. He, then, who interprets the symbols whereby the Law is expressed in the light of knowledge attained through natural contemplation, knows that God does not set nature aright by means of human skill, but bids us cir- cumcise the passible aspect of the soul so as to make it obedient to the intelligence. This is indicated figuratively in terms of the body, and means that we are to excise the flaws from our will by means of spiritual knowledge acquired through the courageous practice of the virtues. The circumcising priest signifies spiritual knowledge, and the knife he uses is the courageous practice of the virtues, which cuts away the passions. When the. Spirit triumphs over the letter, the tradition of the Law is abolished.

  43. The Sabbath (cf. Exod. 16:23, 20:10) signifies rest from the passions, and from the intellect’s gravitation towards the nature of created beings. It signifies the total quiescence of the passions, a complete cessation of the intellect’s gravitation towards created things, and its total entry into the divine. He who has attained this state - so far as God permits - by means of virtue and spiritual knowledge, must not ponder on any material thing at all for, like sticks (cf. Num. 15:32), such things excite the passions; and he must not call to mind any natural principle whatsoever. Otherwise, like the pagans, we will be affirming that God delights in the passions or is commensurate with nature. Perfect silence alone proclaims Him, and total and transcendent unknowing brings us into His presence.

  44. A crown of goodness (cf. Ps. 65:11) is a pure faith, adorned with eloquent doctrine, and with spiritual principles and intellections, as if with precious stones, and set as it were on the head of the devout intellect. Or rather, a crown of goodness is the Logos of God Himself, who encircles the intellect as if it were a head, protecting it with manifold forms of providence and judgment - that is, with mastery of the passions that lie within our con- trol and with patient endurance of those we suffer against our will; and who makes this same intellect more beautiful by enabling it to participate in the grace of deification.

  45. In the preceding passage it is said that self-control is a work of God’s providence, because it purifies the passions which lie within the control of the will. It is also said that patient endurance is a work of God’s Judgment, because it enables us to resist those trials we suffer against our will. Moreover, being a token of practical philosophy, such endurance brings those who have been enslaved in an Egypt of sin across to the realm of virtue.

  46. God did not order the Sabbath, the new moons and the feasts to be honored because He wanted men to honor the days themselves: this would have been tantamount to decreeing by the Law that men should worship creation rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25), and should regard the days as holy in themselves and therefore to be venerated. On the contrary, He indicated that He Himself was to be honored symbolically through the days. For He is the Sabbath, as the soul’s repose after its exertions in the flesh, and as the cessation of its sufferings in the cause of righteousness. He is the Passover, as the liberator of those held in the bitter slavery of sin. He is the Pentecost, as the origin and consummation of all created beings, and as the principle through which all things by nature exist. Thus the Law destroys those who apprehend it in a literal or outward way, leading them to worship creation rather than the Creator, and to regard as holy in themselves things that were brought into existence for man’s sake; for they remain ignorant of Him on whose account they were created.

  47. The world is a finite place and possesses but limited stability. Time is circumscribed movement. It follows that the movement of living things within time is subject to change. When nature passes beyond place and time, actively ‘and inwardly - that is, when it passes beyond those things which always accompany created being, namely, a limited state of stability and limited movement - it is united directly with providence, and finds in providence a principle which is by nature simple, stable, without limitation and thus completely without movement.

  48. Since nature exists in the world in a temporal mode, its movement is subject to change because of the world’s limited stability and its liability to alteration and corruption through the passing of time. When nature has come to exist in God through the essential unity of Him in whom it was created, it will possess an ever-moving stability and a stable and changeless form of movement generated eternally round that which is one, unique and always the same. It has been said that this state is a direct and permanent grounding in the first cause of created beings.

  49. The mystery of Pentecost is the direct union with providence of those things that are in its care. It is the union of nature with its principle, the Logos, under the guidance of providence; and in this union there is not the slightest trace of time or generation. Again, the Logos is our trumpet (ct. Lev. 23:24), summoning us with divine and hidden knowledge. He is our propitiation (cf. Lev. 25: 9) since He expiates our offenses in His own person by becoming like us, and divinizes our sinful nature by the gift, of grace through the Spirit. He is our booth or tabernacle (cf. Lev. 23:42), since He is the realization of that immutability with which our inner being, conformed to God, is concentrated on the divine, and also the securing bond of our transformation into an immortal state.

  50. If God rejoiced simply in bloody sacrifices, this would imply that He is governed by passion and wishes those who offer sacrifice to Him to value the passions; for the sincere worshipper gladly rejoices in the same things as does the God whom he worships. But the sacrifices of which Scripture speaks are rather the slaughter of the passions and the offering up of our natural powers. Of these powers, the ram typifies the intelligence (cf. Lev. 23:42), the bull the incensive power (cf. Exod. 29:36), and the goat represents desire (cf. Num. 15:27).

  51. By spiritual sacrifices is meant not only the putting to death of the passions, slaughtered by ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Eph. 6:17), and the deliberate emptying out of all life in the flesh, as if it were blood; the term also signifies the offering up of the moral state we have gained through the practice of the virtues, together with all our natural powers, which we dedicate and offer to God as whole burnt sacrifices, to be consumed by the fire of grace in the Spirit, so that they are filled with divine power.

  52. When a materialistic understanding of Scripture dominates the soul, it leads the soul to reject natural principles by misusing its natural powers; and so long as this understanding retains its hold it expels, pursues and destroys all such principles and droughts. For it limits the Law to the flesh alone, and honors the shameful passions as divine. But natural thoughts, made fearless through the law of the Spirit, kill the passions at a stroke.

  53. As soon as anyone practices the virtues with true intelligence, he acquires a spiritual understanding of Scripture. He worships God actively in the new way of the Spirit through the higher forms of contemplation, and not in the old way of the written, code (cf. Rom. 7:6), which makes man interpret the Law in an outward and sensual manner and, Judaic-like, fosters the passions and encourages sin.

  54. As soon as a person stops interpreting Scripture in an outward and sensual manner, his intellect reverts to its natural spiritual state: he accomplishes spiritedly what the Jews performed in a purely external and physical manner, thereby provoking God’s anger.

  55. Every intellect caught up by God cuts off simultaneously both the energy of the passions and the uncouth jostle of thoughts. In addition to this it also puts an end to the licentious misuse of the senses. For the passions, brought triumphantly into subjection by the higher forms of contemplation, are destroyed by the sublime vision of nature.

  56. The power of sin - or in other words, the will of the flesh - is destroyed by the grace of holy baptism, and by active obedience to God’s commandments. Such obedience destroys the power of sin with the sword of the Spirit (cf. Eph. 6:17), that is, with the revelation of divine knowledge in the Spirit; for obedience secretly cries to the passion of sin as Samuel cried to Agag: “As your .sword has made women childless, so today shall your mother be childless among women’ (1 Sam. 15:33).

  57. Using the mellow thought of pleasure as if it were a sword, the passion of gluttony makes many virtues childless. By means of dissipation it kills the seeds of self-restraint,; through greed it corrupts the equity of Justice; with self-love it severs the natural bond of compassion, m short, the passion of gluttony destroys all virtue’s offspring.

  58. The passion of gluttony kills all the divine offspring of the virtues. But that passion itself is killed through the spiritual knowledge acquired by the grace of faith and by obedience to the divine commandments.

  59. Our Lord is truly a light to the Gentiles (cf. Isa. 49:6; Luke 2:32): through true knowledge He opens the eyes of their mind, closed as they have been by the darkness of ignorance. Moreover, through His divine conduct He has made Himself a noble example of virtue to the faithful, becoming their model and pattern. Looking to Him as the author of our salvation, we attain the virtues by imitating Him in our own conduct, so far as this is possible for us.

  60. Anyone who hates a man through envy, and maliciously slanders him because he is stronger in the struggle for virtue and richer in spiritual knowledge, is choked like Saul by an evil spirit. (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14): he cannot bear to see someone better than himself enjoying the glory that comes through virtue and spiritual knowledge. And he rages all the more because he cannot actually kill this good man (cf. 1 Sam, 18:10- 11). In addition, he often bitterly banishes the beloved Jonathan from his presence (cf. 1 Sam. 19:4-5; 20: 30-32) — that is, he suppresses the innate judgment of his conscience, which rebukes his unjust hatred and from a love of truth recounts the achievements of the man whom he hates.

  61. Let us, too, beseech the noetic David to make our intellect, frenzied by material things, resonant with the lyre of spiritual contemplation and knowledge, and to drive out the evil spirit of material inconstancy that dominates the world of the senses (cf. 1 Sam. 16:23). In this way we may be able to understand the Law spiritually and find the divine principle hidden mystically within it, so that it becomes for us a lasting source of eternal life.

  62. Every lover of salvation is totally committed either to the practice of the virtues or to the contemplative life. For without virtue and spiritual knowledge no one can attain salvation in any way whatsoever. For virtue controls the body’s impulses, skillfully curbing with sound thoughts its gravitation towards unnatural conduct; while by means of contemplation one inwardly lays hold of what has been rightly conceived and intelligently assessed.

  63. Since apprehension is intellective, and what is apprehended is intelligible, what is apprehended is, so to speak, the nourishment and substance of that which apprehends, Thus when God is apprehended by incorporeal beings - who are themselves intellects - and becomes intelligible to them to the degree to which they come into communion with Him, He illumines them from within, their intellects both apprehending Him and being nourished by Him.

  64. The intelligible is one thing and the intellective is another, the first in some sense, as we have already indicated, nourishing the second. For what is apprehended - the intelligible - is superior and conceptually prior to that which apprehends, which is intellective. Beings that apprehend such superior intelligibles with the intellect are intellective. What is apprehended is intelligible, and it is this that nourishes the intellective — or, in other words, nourishes that which apprehends.

  65. An effect enshrines, as far as possible, the image of its cause. All created things are effects, while what has brought them into being is their cause. But there is no exact resemblance between cause and effect.

  66. Although effects enshrine, so far as possible, the images of their causes, there is no exact resemblance between the two, since causes surpass and transcend effects with regard to their mode of origin. For what pertains: to effects pre-exists superlatively and essentially in their causes.

  67. Effects comprise all created things in heaven and on earth, while the causes that have brought them into being are the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. It is therefore clear that there can be no exact resemblance between the two.

  68. Our intellect possesses the power of apprehension through which it perceives intelligible realities, it also possesses the capacity for a union that transcends its nature and that unites it with what is beyond its natural scope. It is through this union that divine realities are apprehended, not by means of our own natural capacities, but by virtue of the fact that we entirely transcend ourselves and belong entirely to God. It is better to belong to God than to ourselves; for it is on those who belong to God that divine gifts are bestowed.

  69. When the intellect wants to apprehend something, it descends from its own level to the level of intellection. For intellections are inferior to the subject that apprehends, since they are the means through which apprehension and understanding take place; and they disperse and divide the intellect’s unity. The intellect is simple and integral, while intellections are multiple and dispersive: they are, so to speak, the forms of the intellect. For this reason intellective subjects - beings endowed with intellect - are inferior to intelligible realities that are the objects of apprehension. It is by virtue of its unity that the intellect reaches out to what is beyond its natural scope and attains the contemplation of God. This it does by transcending all that belongs to the sensible and intelligible worlds, and even its own activity; for only thus may it receive the ray of divine knowledge.

  70. An intellective being that acts intellectively in accordance with its own principle naturally apprehends with its intellect. Moreover it will love what it apprehends and so in a passive manner, under the influence of the erotic impulse, it will be drawn out of itself towards that which it loves; and this impulse will grow continually more urgent and intense. In this way it will not rest until it is entirely immersed in the total reality of what it loves, wholly and willingly encompassed by the wholeness of that reality, welcoming its saving embrace, and completely conformed to that which embraces it. So much will this be the case that it will now wish to be recognized not from itself but; from what embraces it, like air made luminous by light or iron penetrated through and through by fire, or something else of this kind.

  71. The relationship between the intellective faculty and intelligible realities, and between the sensory faculties and sensible realities, is in each case extremely close. Since man is constituted of soul and sentient body, he is limited and defined and he himself imposes limits and makes definitions by virtue of the natural and distinctive reciprocity that exists between himself and these two aspects of creation. As a compound of soul and body he is limited essentially by intelligible and sensible realities, while at the same time he himself defines these realities through his capacity to apprehend intellectually and to perceive with his senses. God, on the other hand, exists simply and without limitation beyond all created realities, whether comprehending or comprehended, for He has absolutely no relationship with anything at all.

  72. Every forbidden sensual pleasure comes into being as a result of passion and through the perception of some sensible object. For sensual pleasure is nothing other than the form of sensation created in the sentient faculty by some sensible object, or else the mode of sensitive activity when this is set in motion by desire that is con- trary to the intelligence. For when desire combines with the senses, it is changed into pleasure, itself contriving .the form the pleasure takes. And when the senses are stimulated’ by desire, they produce pleasure, taking advantage of the sensible object The saints recognize that the soul assumes .an earthly form when, contrary to nature, it is impelled towards material things by means of the flesh; consequently they resolve to redirect their impulses in accordance with nature towards God by means of the soul, and to adapt their flesh to Him, adorning it as far as possible with images of the divine through the practice of the virtues.

  73. The saints in their nobility pass through this present age of trials by acting unfailingly in accordance with nature. Once their intellect has grasped the simple essences of created things, they unite their senses to it by means of the intelligence; then when the intellect has been completely liberated from all impulsion toward created things, and is at rest even with its own natural activity, they offer it to God. Wholly united with God in this way, they are totally immingled through the spirit with the whole God, since they have put on the whole image of the heavenly (cf. 1 Cor. 15:49) - so far as human beings can do this - and have consecrated themselves to God, drawing the divine image to themselves, if it be permitted to speak thus, as much as being drawn by it.

  74. We are told that God and man are exemplars of each other. Man’s ability to deify himself through love for God’s sake is correlative with God’s becoming man through compassion for man’s sake. And man’s manifestation through the virtues of the God who is by nature invisible is correlative with the degree to which his intellect is seized by God and imbued with spiritual knowledge.

  75. The person who has mortified the earthly aspects of himself (cf. Col. 3:5), thoroughly extinguishing the will of the flesh within him and repudiating the attachment to it which splits asunder the love we owe to God alone; who has disowned all the modalities of the flesh and the world for the sake of divine grace, so as to be able to say with Paul the apostle, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?’ (Rom. 8:35) - such a person has become, like Melchisedec, ‘without father, without mother, without descent’ (Heb. 7:3). For, because of the union with the Spirit that has taken place within him, he cannot now be dominated by flesh or by nature.

  76. I do not think that the end of this present life is mghtly called death. More accurately, it is deliverance from death, separation from corruption, liberation from slavery. Cessation of turbulence, destruction of wars, dispelling of darkness, rest from suffering, calming of turmoil, eclipsing of shame, escape from passions and, to sum up, the termination of all evils. The saints who have achieved these things through voluntary mortification live as strangers and pilgrims in this life (cf. Heb. 11:13), fighting bravely against the world and the body and the assaults stemming from them. And, having stifled the deceit which both of these engender because of the close connection existing between the senses and sensible objects, they keep the dignity of their soul unenslaved.

  77. Nature itself gives no small token of the knowledge of providence planted naturally within us whenever it urges us instinctively towards God through prayer in times of sudden crisis, and makes us seek salvation from Him. For when we are suddenly overtaken by violent events, before thinking of anything else we involuntarily call upon God. It is as if providence itself, without any conscious thought on our part, were drawing us to itself, outstripping the speed of our noetic faculty and showing us that divine help is stronger than anything else. Nature would not lead us purposelessly to what does not naturally exist. It is clear to everyone that whatever is a natural consequence of something demonstrates its own authenticity with the force of truth.

  78. Some things are good and others are bad, and these belong either to the present or to the future. A good which is expected in the future is called desire, and one which is possessed in the present is called pleasure. Conversely, an evil which is expected in the future is called fear, and one which is experienced in the present is called distress. Consequently, with regard to good things, whether really good or only thought to be so, pleasure and desire both exist and are to be observed; and the same may be said of distress and fear where evil things are concemed. Desire when fulfilled produces pleasure, and when frustrated results in distress.

  79. It is said that distress is of its very nature evil. For although a man engaged in the practice of the virtues grieves over the evils that befall others, he is compassionate not primarily by deliberate choice but as a consequence of whatever misfortune it is that occurs. A contemplative, on the other hand, remains dispassionate in the face of such evils, since he has united himself with God and is detached from all that happens in this present life.

  80. Since all the saints have truly grasped the divine and infallible Logos, they pass through this present age without printing their soul’s footsteps on any of the delights which are to be found in it. For they have nghtly made their intellect receptive to the loftiest principles concerning God accessible to man, the principles of goodness and love. They have learnt that God, moved by these principles, has endowed created things with being and granted them well-being as a gift of grace. Yet perhaps when referring to God, who alone is unmoved, we should speak not of movement but of will; for it is God’s will that moves all things, brings all things into existence, sustains them, yet is never moved in any way whatsoever.

  81. Since the soul is an intellective and intelligent substance, it both apprehends with its intellect and uses its intelligence. The intellect is its potentiality, the act of intellection its dynamic, and the intellectual concept or conceptual image its actualization. For the intellectual concept marks the completion of the act of intellection as regards both the intellective subject and the object intellectually apprehended; it intervenes between the two and determines their relation to each other. For when’ the soul apprehends, its act of intellection stops once the object of that act has been grasped: what has truly been apprehended once and for all no longer calls forth the potentiality of the soul to apprehend it. In this way the formation of an intellectual concept brings the act of intellection to an end.

  82. Just as ignorance divides those who are deluded, so the presence of spiritual light draws together and unites those whom it enlightens. It makes them perfect and brings them back to what really exists, converting them from a multiplicity of opinions it unites their varied points of view - or, more accurately, their fantasies - into one simple, true and pure spiritual knowledge, and fills them with a single unifying light.

  83. The beautiful is identical with the good, for all things seek the beautiful and good at every opportunity, and there is no being which does not participate in them. They extend to all that is, being what is truly admirable, sought for, desired, pleasing, chosen and loved. Observe how the divine force of love - the erotic power pre- existing in the good - has given birth to the same blessed force within us, through which we long for the beautiful and good in accordance with the words, “I became a lover of her beauty’ (Wisd. 8:2), and ‘Love her and she will sustain you; fortify her and she will exalt you’ (Prov. 4: 6, 8).

  84. Theologians call the divine sometimes an erotic force, sometimes love, sometimes that which is intensely longed for and loved. Consequently, as an erotic force and as love, the divine itself is subject to movement; and as that which is intensely longed for and loved it moves towards itself everything that is receptive of this force and love. To express this more clearly; the divine itself is subject to movement since it produces an inward state of intense longing and love in those receptive to them; and it moves others since by nature it attracts the desire of those who are drawn; to-wards it. In other words, it moves others and itself moves since it thirsts to be thirsted for, longs to be longed for, and loves to be loved.

  85. The divine erotic force also produces ecstasy, compelling those who love to belong not to themselves but to those whom they love. This is shown by superior beings through their care of inferiors, by those of equal dignity through their mutual union, and by lower beings through their divine conversion towards those that are highest in rank. It was in consequence of this that St Paul, possessed as he was by this divine erotic force and partaking of its ecstatic power, was inspired to say: ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20). He uttered these words as a true lover and, as he himself says, as one who has gone out from himself to God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:13), not living his own life but that of the beloved, because of his fervent love for Him.

  86. One must also in the name of truth be bold enough to affirm that the Cause of all things, through the beauty, goodness and profusion of His intense love for everything, goes out of Himself in His providential care for the whole of creation. By means of the supra-essential power of ecstasy, and spell-bound as it were by goodness, love and longing. He relinquishes His utter transcendence in order to dwell in all things while yet remaining- within Himself. Hence those skilled in divine matters call Him a zealous and exemplary lover, because of the intensity of His blessed longing for all things and because He rouses others to imitate His own intense desire, revealing Himself as their exemplar; for in Him what is desirable is worthy of emulation, and He deserves to be imitated by the beings under His care.

  87. God is said to be the originator and begetter of love and the erotic force. For He externalized them from within Himself, that is, He brought them forth into the world of created things. This is why Scripture says that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16), and elsewhere that He is “sweetness and desire’ (cf. Song of Songs 5:16. LXX), which signifies the erotic force. For what is worthy of love and truly desirable is God Himself. Because loving desire is poured out from Him, He Himself, as its begetter, is said to be in movement, while because He is what is truly longed for, loved, desired and chosen, He stirs into motion the things that turn towards Him, and which possess the power of desiring each in the degree appropriate it.

  88. You should understand that God stimulates and allures in order to bring about an erotic union in the Spirit; that is to say. He is the go-between in this union, the one who brings the parties .together, in order that He may be desired and loved by His creatures. God stimulates in that He impels each being, in accordance with its own principle, to return to Him. Even though the word ‘allurement’ signifies something impure to the profane, here it stands for the mediation which effects the union with God.

  89. The erotic impulsion of the Good, that pre-exists in the Good, is simple and self-moving; it proceeds from the Good, and returns again to the Good, since it is without end or beginning. This is why we always desire the divine and union with the divine. For loving union with God surpasses and excels all other unions.

  90. We should regard the erotic force, whether divine, angelic, noetic, psychic or physical, as a unifying and commingling power. It impels superior beings to care for .those below them, beings of equal dignity to act with reciprocity, and, finally, inferior beings, to return to those that are greater and more excellent than they.

  91. Spiritual knowledge unites knower and known, while ignorance is always a cause of change and self-division in the ignorant. Hence nothing, according to sacred Scripture, will shift him who truly believes from the ground of his true faith, in which resides the permanence of his immutable and unchanging identity. For he who has been united with the truth has the assurance that all is well with him, even though most people rebuke him for being out of his mind. For without their being aware he has moved from delusion to the truth of real faith; and he knows for sure that he is not deranged, as they say, but that through truth - simple and always immutably the same - he has been liberated from the fluctuating and fickle turmoil of the manifold forms of illusion.

  92. The saints are full of goodness, compassion, kindliness and mercy. They manifest the same love for the whole human race. Because of this they hold fast throughout their lives to the highest of all blessings, humility, that conserves, other blessings and destroys their opposites. Thus they become totally immune to vexing trials and temptations, whether those due to ourselves and subject to our volition, or net from ourselves and beyond our control. They wither the attacks of the first type through self-control, and repel the assaults of the second type with patient endurance.

  93. The perfect practice of virtue is produced by true faith and genuine fear of God. Unerring natural contemplation — in the course of the spiritual ascent is produced by a sure hope and a sound understanding. Deification through assumption into the divine is produced by perfect love and an intellect voluntarily blinded, because of its transcendent state, to created things.

  94. The function of practical philosophy is to purify the intellect of every impassioned fantasy. The function of natural contemplation is to initiate the intellect into the true knowledge that is found in created things and according to which they possess existence. The function of mystical theology is by grace to make the intellect like God and equal to Him - as far as this is possible - so that it becomes totally unaware, because of its transcendent state, of anything that is sequent to God.

  95. Ether, or the fiery element, in the world of the senses corresponds in the world of the mind to understanding - a state that illumines and manifests the spiritual principles particular to each created being, revealing through these principles tike Cause that is present in them all, and drawing out the soul’s desire for the divine. Air in the world of the senses corresponds in the world of the mind to courage - a state that quickens, sustains and activates this innate life of the spirit, and invigorates the soul’s ceaseless aspiration for the divine. Water in the world of the senses corresponds in the world of the mind to self-restraint - a state that produces a vitalizing fecundity in the spirit and generates an ever-resurgent erotic enchantment attracting the soul to the divine. Earth in the world of the senses corresponds in the world of the mind to justice - a state that begets all the inner principles of created things according to their kind, that in spirit shares out the gifts of life to each thing in an equitable way, and that is by its own free choice rooted and established immovably in beauty and goodness.

  96. When the flesh flourishes and burgeons, the soul is afflicted and darkened by the passions, because the state of virtue and the illumination of spiritual knowledge withdraw. Conversely, when the soul is fortified and made resplendent with the divine beauty of the virtues and with the illumination of spiritual knowledge, the outer man is weakened, because the flesh loses its natural vigor through the indwelling of the Logos.

  97. Created man cannot become a son of God and god by grace through deification, unless he is first through his own free choice begotten in the Spirit by means of the self-loving and independent power dwelling naturally within him. |”he first man neglected this divinizing, divine and immaterial birth by choosing what is manifest and delectable to the senses in preference to the spiritual blessings that were as yet unrevealed. In this way he fittingly condemned himself to a bodily generation that is without choice, material and subject to death.

  98. In his present state man acts either to satisfy the uncontrolled fantasies of passions deceitfully provoked for the sake of self-indulgence, or to perform work forced on him by some necessity, or in order to discover the natural laws of nature. In the beginning none of these things constrained man in this way, for he was above all things. That indeed is how it was right for the first man to be: not in the least distracted by anything below him, or around him, or over against him, and requiring only one thing for his perfection - an indomitable striving, backed by all the strength of his love, towards the God above him.

  99. Nothing that had to be learnt interposed itself between God and the first man, impeding the free relationship that was to be sealed by love through his striving towards God. Being dispassionate by grace, he was not subject to the delusory fantasies of passions provoked by the desire for sensual pleasure. Being self-sufficient, he was free from needs forcing him to engage in some kind of work. Being wise, he possessed a spiritual knowledge that made him superior to the study of nature.

  100. God, who created all nature with wisdom and secretly planted in each intelligent being knowledge of Himself as its first power, like a munificent Lord gave also to us men a natural desire and longing for Him, combining it in a natural way with the power of our intelligence. Using our intelligence, we struggle so as to learn with tranquility and without going astray how to realize this natural desire. Impelled by it we are led to search out the truth, wisdom and order manifest harmoniously in all creation, aspiring through them to atta Him by whose grace we received the desire.