Orthodox River

Various Texts on Theology Third Century

  1. The person who combines spiritual knowledge with the practice of the virtues and practice of the virtues with spiritual knowledge is a throne and a footstool of God (cf. Isa. 66:1) - a throne because of his spiritual knowledge and a footstool because of his ascetic practice. And. the human intellect, purified of all material images and occupied or, rather, adorned with the divine principles of the noetic world, is a heaven itself.

  2. When any philosopher - any devout philosopher - fortified with virtue and spiritual knowledge, or with ascetic practice and contemplation, sees the power of evil rising up against him through the passions, like the king of the Assyrians rising up against Hezekiah (cf. 2 Kgs. 18:13-16; Isa. 36:1-2), he is aware that Only with God’s help can he escape. He invokes God’s mercy by crying out silently and by striving to advance still further in virtue and knowledge; and he receives as an ally, or rather as his salvation, an angel, that is, one of the higher principles of wisdom and knowledge, who cuts off ‘every mighty man, warrior, leader and commander in the camp’ (2Chr.32:21).

  3. Every passion has its origin in the corresponding sensible object. For without some object to attract the powers of the soul through the medium of the senses, no passion would ever be generated. In other words, without a sensible object a passion does not come into being: without a woman there is no unchastity; without food there is no gluttony; without gold there is no love of money, and so on. Thus at the origin of every impassioned stimulation of our natural powers there is a sensible object or, in other terms, a demon inciting the soul to commit sin by means of the sensible object.

  4. Attrition suppresses the actualization of sin; obliteration destroys even the thought of it. For attrition prevents the realization of the impassioned act, while obliteration completely annihilates all demonic motivation in the mind itself.

  5. Sensible and noetic realities lie between God and man. When the human intellect moves towards God it transcends them, provided that it is not enslaved to sensible realities through outward activity and is not dominated in any way by the noetic realities it beholds during contemplation.

  6. Creation is the accuser of the ungodly. For through its inherent spiritual principles creation proclaims its Maker; and through the natural laws intrinsic to each individual species it instructs us in virtue. The spiritual principles may be recognized in the unremitting continuance of each individual species, the laws in the consistency of its natural activity. If we do not ponder on these things, we remain ignorant of the cause of created being and we cling to all the passions which are contrary to nature.

  7. Seripture exhorts us to offer gifts to God so that we may become conscious of His infinite goodness. For God receives our offerings as if they were entirely our own gifts and He had not already given us anything. In this way God’s untold goodness towards us is fully evident, for when we offer Him things which in reality are His own He accepts them as if they were ours, and He makes Himself our debtor as though they were not already His.

  8. If we perceive the spiritual principles of visible things we learn that the world has a Maker. But we do not ask what is the nature of that Maker, because we recognize that this is beyond our scope. Visible creation clearly enables us to grasp that there is a Maker, but it does not enable us to grasp His nature.

  9. The wrath of God is the painful sensation we experience when we are being trained by Him. Through this painful experience of unsought sufferings God often abases and humbles an intellect conceited about its knowledge and virtue; for such sufferings make it conscious of itself and its own weakness. When the intellect perceives its own weakness it rejects the vain pretensions of the heart.

  10. The wrath of God is the suspension of gifts of grace — a most salutary experience for every self-inflated intellect that boasts of the blessings bestowed by God as if they were its own achievements.

  11. The intellect of every true philosopher and gnostic possesses both Judah and Jerusalem; Judah is practical philosophy and Jerusalem is contemplative intuition. Whenever by the grace of God such an intellect repels the powers of evil with virtue and spiritual knowledge, and wins a complete victory over them, yet does not thank God, the true author of this victory, but boasts that the achievement is its own, it brings down the wrath of God’s abandonment not only on itself but also on Judah and Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chr. 32:25), that is, on both its practice of the virtues and its contemplative life; it has failed to ‘give thanks to God for the gifts that He has given’ (ibid.). God at once permits shameful passions to vitiate its practice of the virtues and to sully its conscience, which until then was pure; He also permits false concepts to insinuate themselves into its contemplation of created beings and to pervert its spiritual knowledge, which until then had been sound. For ignoble passions immediately attack an intellect conceited about its virtue, just as an intellect over-elated because of its spiritual knowledge will be permitted by God’s just judgment to lapse from true contemplation.

  12. Providence has implanted a divine standard or law in created beings, and in accordance with this law when we are ungrateful for spiritual blessings we are schooled in gratitude by adversity, and brought to recognize through this experience that all such blessings are produced through the workings of divine power. This is to prevent us from becoming irrepressibly conceited, and from thinking in our arrogance that we possess virtue and spiritual knowledge by nature and not by grace. If we did this we would be using what is good to produce what is evil: the very things which should establish knowledge of God unshaken within us will instead be making us ignorant of Him.

  13. We know that the providence which sustains created beings exists in them as a divine rule and law. In accordance with God’s justice, when those rich in blessings are ungrateful to Him who bestows them, they are schooled in gratitude by this richness being drastically curtailed; and through this adversity they are led to recognize the true source of the blessings they receive. For when conceit about one’s virtue is left undisciplined it naturally generates arrogance, and this induces a sense of hostility to God.

  14. He who thinks that he has achieved perfection in virtue will never go on to seek the original source of blessing, for he has limited the scope of his aspiration to himself and so of his own accord has deprived himself of the condition of salvation, namely God. The person aware of his natural poverty where goodness is concerned never relaxes his impetus towards Him who can fully supply what he lacks.

  15. He who has perceived how limitless virtue is never ceases from pursuing it, so as not to be deprived of the origin and consummation of virtue, namely God, by confining his aspiration to himself. For by wrongly supposing that he had achieved perfection he would forfeit true being, towards which every diligent person strives.

  16. The arrogant intellect is justly made the object of wrath, that is to say, it is abandoned by God, as I have already described, and the demons are permitted to plague it during contemplation. This happens so that it may become aware of its own natural weakness and recognize the grace and divine power which shields it and which accomplishes every blessing; and so that it may also learn humility, utterly discarding its alien and unnatural pride. If this indeed happens, then the other form of wrath - the withdrawal of graces previously given - will not visit it, because it has already been humbled and is now conscious of Him who provides all blessings.

  17. The person who has not been recalled to humility by the first form of wrath, namely abandonment, and does not through this humility learn true awareness, inevitably brings on himself the other form of wrath, which deprives him of the operation of the graces and leaves him destitute of the power that until then had protected him. For ‘I will take away its protection’, says God of an ungrateful Israel, ‘and it will be plundered; I will break down its wall and it will be trampled under foot; I will destroy My vineyard, it will not be pruned or dug, and: briars will grow in it as in ground that is waste; and I will command the clouds not to rain on it’ (Isa. 5:5-6. LXX).

  18. Complete unawareness of the loss of the virtues marks the downward path to godlessness. For the person who habitually disobeys God, through indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, will deny God Himself when the occasion arises. In preferring the life of the flesh to God, he places a higher value on sensual pleasures than on the divine will. ;

  19. When we think that our intellect has experienced something we must surely believe that its powers of ascetic practice and of contemplation have also shared in this experience in accordance with their natural principles, for a subject cannot experience something without the things within the subject also sharing in the experience. I call the intellect a subject because it is capable of receiving virtue and spiritual knowledge. By the phrase ‘within the subject’ I refer to the life of ascetic practice and the contemplative life, which in relation to the intellect are accidents or attributes. Hence they share completely in the experience of the intellect, because it is the intellect’s mobility that produces in them any modification which they undergo.

  20. Suppose the demons invisibly attack the intellect of a virtuous, God-loving man who, like Hezekiah, has girded himself spiritually with power against them, and who through prayer has received an angel sent to him from God (cf. 2 Chr. 32:21), that is to say, has received one of the higher principles of wisdom, and so scatters and destroys the whole army of the devil, and suppose this man ascribes this victory and deliverance not to God but entirely to himself, then he has failed to ‘give thanks to God for the gifts He has given’ (2 Chr. 32:25). His gratitude does not match the greatness of his deliverance, nor does his inner attitude measure up to the bounty of his deliverer.

  21. Let us illumine our intellect with intellections of the divine world and make our body refulgent with the quality of the spiritual principles we have perceived, so that through the rejection of the passions it becomes a workshop of virtue, controlled by the intelligence. If the natural passions of the body are governed by the intelli- gence there is no reason to censure them. But when their activity is not controlled by the intelligence, they do deserve censure. This is why it is said that such passions must be rejected, for although their activity is natural, they may often be used, when not governed by the intelligence, in a way that is contrary to nature.

  22. Anyone whose heart exults because of the divine gifts he has received, and who preens himself as though those gifts were his own and had not been received (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7), justly calls down wrath on himself. God permits the devil to entangle his intellect, to undermine the virtuous quality of his conduct, and to obscure the luminous principles of spiritual knowledge during his contemplation. This is to make him realize his own weakness and recognize the one power capable of defeating the passions in us. If this happens, he may repent and be brought to a state of humility, discarding his load of conceit and being reconciled with God. Then he will avert the wrath that falls on those who do not repent, that takes away the grace which guards their souls, and leaves their ungrateful minds destitute.

  23. When wrath takes the form of God allowing the demons to attack an arrogant intellect through the passions, it is a means of deliverance. For through suffering these shameful attacks the person that boasts of his virtues is enabled to learn who is the giver of these virtues. Otherwise he will be stripped of those things that are not in fact his, though he regarded them. as such, forgetting that he had received them as a gift. :

  24. Truly blessed is the intellect that dies to all created beings: to sensible beings by quelling the activity of the senses, and to intelligible beings by ceasing from noetic activity. Through such a death of the intellect the will dies to all things. The intellect is then able to receive the life of divine grace and to apprehend, in a manner that transcends its noetic power, not simply created beings, but their Creator.

  25. Blessed is he who has united his practice of the virtues to natural goodness and his contemplative life to natural truth. For all practice of the virtues is for the sake of goodness and all contemplation seeks spiritual knowledge solely for the sake of truth. When goodness and truth are attained, nothing can afflict the soul’s capacity for practicing the virtues, or disturb its contemplative activity with outlandish speculations; for the soul will now transcend every created and intelligible reality, and will enter into God Himself, who alone is goodness and troth and who is beyond all being and all intellection.

  26. Goodness, which is the lull expression of divine activity within us, is said to be the consummation of practical virtue. The soul’s intelligent power is drawn towards goodness when it uses its incensive and desiring aspects in accordance with nature. In goodness the beauty that is according to God’s likeness is made manifest. The consummation of contemplative philosophy is said to be the truth. Truth is the simple, undivided knowledge of all the qualities that appertain to God. A pure intellect is draws towards this knowledge when it has nullified all judgment based on; the senses. Such knowledge makes manifest the dignity of the divine image in a wholly unsullied state.

  27. No one can truly bless God unless he has sanctified his body with the virtues and made his soul luminous with spiritual knowledge. For a virtuous disposition constitutes the face of a contemplative intellect, its gaze turned heavenwards to the height of true knowledge.

  28. Blessed is he who knows in truth that we are but tools in God’s hands; that it is God who effects within us all ascetic practice and contemplation, virtue and spiritual knowledge, victory and wisdom, goodness and truth; and that to all this we contribute nothing at all except a disposition that desires what is good. Zerubbabel had this disposition when he said to God: “Blessed art Thou who hast given me, wisdom; I give thanks to Thee, 0 Lord of our fathers; from Thee comes victory and wisdom; and Thine is the glory and I am Thy servant’ (1 Esd. 4:59- 60). As a truly grateful servant he ascribed all things to God, who had given him everything. He possessed wisdom as a gift from God and attributed to Him as Lord of his fathers the efficacy of the blessings bestowed on him. These blessings are, as we have said, the union of victory and wisdom, virtue and spiritual knowledge, ascetic practice and contemplation, goodness and truth. For when these are united together they shine with a single divine glory and brightness.

  29. All the achievements of the saints were clearly gifts of grace from God. None of the saints had the least thing other than the goodness granted to him by the Lord God according to the measure of his gratitude and love. And what he acquired he acquired only in so far as he surrendered himself to the Lord who bestowed it,

  30. When a man’s intellect is pre-eminent in virtue and spiritual knowledge, and he is determined to keep his soul free from evil slavery to the passions, he says, “Women are extremely strong but truth conquers all’ (1 Esd. 3:12). By women he means the divinizing virtues which give rise to the love that unites men with God and with one another. This love wrests the soul away from all that is subject to generation and decay and from all intelligible beings that are beyond generation and decay, and - in so far as this can happen to human nature - it intermingles the soul with God Himself in a kind of erotic union, mystically establishing a single shared life, undefiled and divine. By truth he means the sole and unique cause, origin, kingdom, power and glory of created beings, from which and through which all things were made and are being made, by which and through which the being of all things is sustained, and to which the lovers of God dedicate all their diligence and activity.

  31. Women signify the supreme realization of the virtues, which is love. Love is the unfailing pleasure and indivisible union of those who participate through their longing in what is good by nature. Truth signifies the fulfillment of all spiritual knowledge and of all the things that can be known. For the natural activities of all created things are drawn by a certain universal intelligence to this truth as their origin and fulfillment. For the Origin and Cause of created beings has as truth conquered all things naturally, and has drawn their activity to Himself.

  32. Because it transcends all things, truth admits of no plurality, and reveals itself as single and unique. It embraces the spiritual potentialities of all that is intellective and intelligible, since it transcends both intellective and intelligible beings; and by an infinite power it encompasses both the ultimate origin and the ultimate consummation of created beings-and draws the entire activity of each to itself. On some it bestows lucid spiritual knowledge of the grace they have lost, and to others it grants, through an indescribable mode of perception and by means of participation, clear understanding of the goodness for which they long.

  33. The intellect is the organ of wisdom, the intelligence that of spiritual knowledge. The natural sense of assurance common to both intellect and intelligence is the organ of the faith established in each of them, while natural compassion is the organ of the gift of healing. For, corresponding to every divine gift, there is in us an appropriate and natural organ capable of receiving it - a kind of capacity, or intrinsic state or disposition. Thus he who purges his intellect of all sensible images receives wisdom. He who makes his intelligence the master of his innate passions - that is to say, of his incensive and desiring powers - receives spiritual knowledge. He whose intellect and intelligence possess an unshakeable assurance concerning divine realities receives that faith with which all things are possible. He who has acquired natural compassion receives, after the utter annihilation of self-love, the gifts of healing.

  34. In each of us the energy of the spirit is made manifest according to the measure of his faith (cf. Rom. 12:6). Therefore each of us is the steward of his own grace and, if we think logically, we should never envy another person the enjoyment of his gifts, since the disposition which makes us capable of receiving divine blessings depends on ourselves.

  35. In other words, divine blessings are bestowed according to the measure of faith in each man. Similarly, the strength of our faith is revealed by the zeal with which we act. Thus our actions disclose the measure of our faith, and the strength of our faith determines the measure of grace that we receive. Conversely, the extent to which we fail to act reveals the measure of our lack of faith, and our lack of faith in turn determines the degree to which we are deprived of grace. Hence the person who out of jealousy envies those who practice the virtues is more than misguided, for the choice of believing and acting, and of receiving grace according to the measure of his faith, clearly depends on him and not on anybody else.

  36. He who aspires to divine realities willingly allows providence to lead him by principles of wisdom towards the grace of deification. He who does not so aspire is drawn, by the just judgment of God and against his will, away from evil by various forms of discipline. The first, as a lover of God, is deified by providence; the second, although a lover of matter, is held back from perdition by God’s judgment. For since God is goodness itself, He heals those who desire it through the principles of wisdom, and through various forms of discipline cures those who are sluggish in virtue.

  37. Real faith is truth which is all-embracing, all-sustaining and free from all falsehood. A good conscience confers on us the power of love, since it is not guilty of any transgression of the commandments.

  38. Scripture says that seven spirits will rest upon the Lord: the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of spiritual knowledge, the spirit of cognitive insight, the spirit of counsel, the spirit of strength, and the spirit of the fear of God (cf. Isa. 11:2). The effects produced by these spiritual gifts are as follows: by fear, abstention from evil; by strength, the practice of goodness; by counsel, discrimination with respect to the demons; by cognitive insight, a clear perception of what one has to do; by spiritual knowledge, the active grasping of the divine principles inherent in the virtues, by understanding, the soul’s total empathy with the things that it has come to know; and by wisdom, an indivisible union with God, whereby the saints attain the actual enjoyment of the things for which they long. He who shares in wisdom becomes god by participation and, immersed in the ever-flowing, secret outpouring of God’s mysteries, he imparts to those who long for it a knowledge of divine blessedness.

  39. The spirit of the fear of God is abstention from evil deeds. The spirit of strength is an impulse and disposition prompt to fulfill the commandments. The spirit of counsel is the habit of discrimination according to which we fulfill the divine commandments intelligently and distinguish what is good from what is bad. The spirit of cognitive insight is an unerring perception of the ways in which virtue is to be practiced; if we act in accordance with this perception we will not deviate at all from the true judgment of our intelligence. The spirit of spiritual knowledge is a grasping of the commandments and the principles inherent in them, according to which the qualities of the virtues are constituted. The spirit of understanding is acceptance of the qualities and principles of the virtues or, to put it more aptly, it is a transmutation by which one’s natural powers commingle with the qualities and principles of the commandments. The spirit of wisdom is ascension towards the Cause of the higher spiritual principles inherent in the commandments, and union with it. Through this ascension and union we are initiated, in so far as this is possible for human beings, simply and through unknowing into those inner divine principles of created beings, and in different ways we present to men, as if from a spring welling up in our heart, the truth which resides in all things.

  40. We ascend step by step from what is remotest from God, but near to us, to the primal realities which are furthest from us but near to God. For we begin by abstaining from evil because of fear, and from this we advance to the practice of virtue through strength; from the practice of virtue we advance to the. discrimination conferred by the spirit of counsel; from discrimination to a settled state of virtue, which is cognitive insight; from the settled state of virtue to the spiritual knowledge of the divine principles inherent in the virtues; from this knowledge to a state of understanding, that is, to the transmuted state in which we conform to the divine principles of virtue that we have come to know; and from this we advance to the simple and undistorted contemplation of the truth that is in all; things. From this point of vantage, as a. result of our wise contemplation of sensible and noetic beings, we will be enabled to speak about the truth as we should.

  41. The first good which actively affects us, namely fear, is reckoned by Scripture as the most remote from God, for it is called ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10). Setting out from this towards our ultimate goal, wisdom, we come to understanding, and this enables us to draw close to God Himself, for we have only wisdom lying between us and our union with Him. Yet it is impossible for a man to attain wisdom unless first, through fear and through the remaining intermediary gifts, he frees himself completely from the mist of ignorance and the dust of sin. That is why, in the order established by Scripture, wisdom is placed close to God and fear close to us. In this way we can learn the rule and law of good order.

  42. Ascending therefore with these eyes of faith, that is to say, with this enlightenment, we are drawn towards the divine unity of wisdom, which is divided into different gifts for our benefit, and by mounting from one virtue to another we unite with the source of those gifts. But with God’s help we do not omit any of the stages we have already mentioned, lest by gradually growing neglectful we allow our faith to become blind and sightless because it is deprived of the enlightenment of the Spirit that comes through works. If this happened, we would be punished for endless ages because we have blinded in ourselves the divine eyes which had opened within us according to the measure of our faith.

  43. When by neglecting the commandments a person blinds the eyes of faith that are within him, then he is certainly doomed, for he no longer has God watching over him. For if Scripture calls the energies of the Spirit the ‘eyes of the Lord’ (Deut. 11:12), the person who does not open those eyes by fulfilling the commandments does not have God watching over him. God watches us only when through fulfilling the commandments we are illumined by the energies of the Spirit, for He has no other eyes by which He looks down on those who dwell on earth.

  44. Wisdom is a unity contemplated indivisibly in the various virtues which arise from it; and it is perceived in a single form in the operations of the virtues. Again, it appears as a simple unity when the virtues which issued from it are reintegrated with it. This happens when we, for whose sake wisdom has produced from itself each individual virtue, are drawn upwards towards it by means of each virtue.

  45. When you fail to carry out the divine precepts of faith, your faith is blind. For if the precepts of God are light (cf. Isa. 26:9. LXX), it is clear that when you fail to put the divine precepts into practice you are without divine fight. You are God’s servant merely in name, not in reality.

  46. No one can plead the weakness of the flesh as an excuse when he sins; for the union of our humanity with the divine Logos through the incarnation, has renewed the whole of nature by lifting the curse, and so we have no excuse if our will remains attached to the passions. For the divinity of the Logos, which always dwells by grace in those who believe in Him, withers the rule of sin in the flesh.

  47. He who through faith in God and love for Him has conquered the witless desires or impulses of the passions which are contrary to nature, moves out of the sphere of natural law and enters wholly into the noetic realm. And, together with himself, he delivers from alien servitude his fellow-men and their concerns.

  48. Unless curbed by the fear of God that accompanies the practice of the virtues, spiritual knowledge leads to vanity; for it encourages the person puffed up by it to regard as his own what has merely been lent to him, and to use his borrowed intelligence to win praise for himself. But when his practice of the virtues increases concomitantly with his longing for God, and he does not arrogate to himself more spiritual knowledge than is needed for the task in hand, then he is made humble, reduced to himself by principles which are beyond his capacity.

  49. Man’s heavenly abode is a dispassionate state of virtue, combined with a spiritual knowledge that has overcome all delusory notions.

  50. Plurality is the consummation of unity manifested, and unity is the origin of non-manifest plurality. For the origin of every consummation is clearly its non-manifest state, and the consummation of every origin is the full development of its potentiality for manifestation. Thus, since faith is the natural origin of the virtues, its con- summation is the full development of the goodness realized through the virtues; and since natural goodness is the consummation of the virtues, its origin is faith. In this way there is an intrinsic reciprocity between faith and goodness: faith is implicit goodness and goodness is faith manifested. God is by nature both faithful and good (cr, Matt. 19:17); He is faithful as the primal good and good as the desire of all desires. These attributes are in every way identical with each other; and, except is our conception of them, they are not divided from each other in any way by any act of manifestation that takes its start from Him and ends in Him. Thus plurality, being the manifestation of God as the desire of all desires, brings to perfect fulfillment the longing of all that aspires towards Him; while unity, being a symbol of God as the primal good, constitutes the perfect ground of all that is made manifest from Him.

  51. The first type of dispassion is complete abstention from the actual committing of sift, and it may be found in those beginning the spiritual way. The second is the complete rejection in the mind of all assent to evil thoughts; this is found in those who have achieved an intelligent participation in virtue. The third is the complete quiescence of passionate desire; this is found in those who contemplate noetically the inner essences of visible things through then outer forms. The fourth type of dispassion is the complete purging even of passion-free images; this is found in those who have made their intellect a pure, transparent mirror of God through spiritual knowledge and contemplation. If, then, you have cleansed yourself from the committing of acts prompted by the passions, have freed yourself from mental assent to them, have put a stop to the stimulation of passionate desire, and have purged your intellect of even the passion-free images of what were once objects of the passions, you have attained the four general types of dispassion. You have emerged from the realm of matter and material things, and have entered the sphere of intelligible realities, noetic, tranquil and divine.

  52. The first type of dispassion, in other words, is abstention from the body’s impulsion towards the actual committing of sin. The second is the complete rejection of impassioned thoughts in the soul; through this rejection the impulsion of the passions mentioned in the first type of dispassion is quelled, since there are now no impassioned thoughts to incite it to action. The third is the complete quiescence of passionate desire, and through this the second type is generated, since it is brought into being by purity of thought. The fourth type of dispassion is the complete exclusion from the mind of all sensible images. This also produces the third type, since the mind no longer possesses those images of sensible things which produce imaginings of the passions in it.

  53. Intelligence and reason are to be treated like the bondservants of Hebrew stock who are set free at the end of six years (cf. Deut. 15:12). They labor like a servant and a handmaid for everyone who practices the virtues, since they conceive and realize the qualities of active virtue, and their whole strength is as it were drawn up against the demons that oppose the practice of the virtues. When they have completed the stage of practical philosophy - and this completion is represented by the sixth year, for the number six signifies practical philosophy - intelligence and reason are set free to devote themselves to spiritual contemplation, that is to say, they contemplate the inner essences of created beings.

  54. The incensive power and desire, on the other hand, are to be treated like the servant and the handmaid of another tribe (cf. Lev. 25: 4]-42). The contemplative; intellect, through fortitude and self-restraint, subjugates them for ever to the lordship of the intelligence, so that they serve the virtues. It does not give them their complete freedom until the law of nature is totally swallowed up by the law of the spirit, in the same way as the death of the unhappy flesh is swallowed up by infinite life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:4), and until the entire image of the unoriginate kingdom is clearly revealed, mimetically manifesting in itself the entire form of the archetype. When the contemplative intellect enter this state it gives the incensive power and desire their freedom, transmuting desire into the unsullied pleasure and pure enravishment of an intense love for God and the incensive power into spiritual fervor, an ever-active fiery e/an, a self-possessed frenzy.

  55. The intellect unwavering concentration on spiritual knowl-edge, and the incorruption of the senses when hallowed by virtue, constitute an image of the unoriginate kingdom. This occurs when soul and body, through the spiritual transmutation of the senses into the intellect, are united with each other solely by the divine law of the Spirit. In this state, the ever-active vital energy of the Logos always pervades them, and all unlikeness to the divine utterly vanishes.

  56. Pleasure has been defined as desire realized, since pleasure presupposes the actual presence of something regarded as good. Desire, on the other hand, is pleasure that is only potential, since desire seeks like realization in the future of something regarded as good. Incensiveness is frenzy premeditated, and frenzy is incensiveness brought into action. Thus he who has subjected desire and incensiveness to the intelligence will find that his desire is changed into pleasure through his soul’s unsullied union in grace with the divine, and that his incensiveness is changed into a pure fervor shielding his pleasure in the divine, and into a self-possessed frenzy in which the soul, ravished by longing, is totally rapt in ecstasy above the realm of created beings. But-so long as the world and the soul’s willing attachment to material things are alive in us, we must not give freedom to desire and incensiveness, lest they commingle with the sensible objects that are cognate to them, and make war against the soul, taking it captive with the passions, as in ancient times the Babylonians took Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kgs. 25:4). For when Scripture, exhibiting the world of intelligibles through the literal narrative, speaks of an age during which the Law commands servants of another tribe to remain in bondage (cf. Lev. 25:40-41), it means by ‘age’ the attachment of the soul’s will and purpose to this world, that is, to this present life.

  57. Evil has a beginning, for it has its origin in activity on our part which is contrary to nature. But goodness does not have a beginning, for it exists by nature before time and before all ages. Goodness is intelligible because it can be grasped by intellection. Evil is not intelligible because it cannot be grasped-by intellection. Goodness can he spoken about - indeed, it is the only thing we should speak about. It also comes into being - it is, in fact, the only thing that should come into being; for although by nature it is uncreated, yet because of God’s love for us it allows itself to come into being through us by grace, so that we who create and speak may be deified. Evil - which is the only thing that should not come into being - we cannot create. Evil is corruptible because corruption is the nature of evil, which does not possess any true existence whatsoever. Goodness is incorruptible because it exists eternally and never ceases to be, and watches over everything in which it dwells. Goodness, then, is what we should seek with our intelligence, long for with our desire, and keep inviolate with our incensive power. With out cognitive insight we should prevent it from being adulterated by anything that is contrary to it. With our voice we should make it manifest in speech to those who art ignorant of it. And with our generative power we should make it increase or, to put it more accurately, we should be increased by it.

  58. The contemplative intellect, if it is to rule over conceptual images of created things, as well as over its own activities, must be in a state barren of evil, that is, one which neither conceives evil in any way nor gives birth to it. It must be in this state when it embarks on contemplation lest, in scrutinizing created beings spiritually, it inadvertently falls into the power of one of the demons whose nature it is to corrupt the heart’s pure vision by means of some sensible object.

  59. He who on account of his virtue or spiritual knowledge falls victim to self-esteem grows his hair like Absalom, to no good purpose (cf. 2 Sam. 14:26; 18:9). Outwardly he appears to pursue a moral way of life, but it is carefully contrived and mixed (like a mule) with conceit, and designed to deceive onlookers. Puffed up with his vainglory, he tries to supplant the spiritual father who gave him birth through the teaching of the Logos; for in his pride he wants, like a usurper, to arrogate to himself all the splendor of-the virtue and spiritual knowledge which his spiritual father possessed as a gift from God. But when such a man begins to engage in the spiritual contemplation of created beings and to fight with his intelligence for truth, because his sensual nature is still full of life he is caught by his hair in the oak tree of material appearances; and thus his empty conceit, entangled as it is with death, suspends him between heaven and earth (cf. 2 Sam. 18:9). For the victim of self-esteem does not possess spiritual knowledge, which like heaven would draw him up out of his degrading conceit, nor does he possess earth, that basis, rooted in humility, of practical endeavor which would draw him down from the heights to which his arrogance has raised him. The spiritual teacher who gave him birth grieves compassionately on seeing him the (cf. 2 Sam. 18:33). In this way his teacher imitates God, who desires not the death of a sinner but rather that he should repent and live (cf. Ezek. 33:11).

  60. The origin and consummation of every man’s salvation is wisdom, which initially produces fear but when perfected gives rise to loving desire. Or, rather, initially and providentially wisdom manifests itself for our sake as fear, so as to make us who aspire to wisdom desist from evil; but ultimately it exists in its natural state for its own sake as loving desire, so as to fill with spiritual mirth those who have abandoned all existing things In order to dwell with it.

  61. To those who do not long for it, wisdom is fear, because of the loss which they suffer through their flight from it; but in those who cleave to it, wisdom is loving desire, promoting an inner state of joyous activity. For wisdom creates fear, delivering a person from the passions by making him apprehensive of punishment; and it also produces loving desire, accustoming the intellect through the acquisition of the virtues to behold the blessings held in store for us.

  62. Every genuine confession humbles the soul. When it takes the form of thanksgiving, it teaches the soul that it has been delivered by the grace of God. When it takes the form of self-accusation, it teaches the soul that it is guilty of crimes through its own deliberate indolence.

  63. Confession takes two forms. According to the one, we give thanks for blessings received, according to the other, we bring to light and examine what we have done wrong. We use the term confession both for the grateful appreciation of the blessings we have received through divine favor, and for the admission of the evil actions of which we are guilty. Both forms produce humility. For he who thanks God for blessings and he who examines himself for his offences are both humbled. The first judges himself unworthy of what he has been given; the second implores forgiveness for his sins.

  64. The passion of pride arises from two kinds of ignorance, and when these two kinds of ignorance unite together they form a single confused state of mind. For a man is proud only if he is ignorant both of divine help and of human weakness. Therefore pride is a lack of knowledge both in the divine and in the human spheres. For the denial of two true premises results in a single false affirmation.

  65. Self-esteem is the replacing of a purpose which accords with God by another purpose which is contrary to the divine. For a man full of self-esteem pursues virtue not for God’s glory but for his own, and so purchases with his labors the worthless praise of men.

  66. The person who likes to be popular attends solely to the outward show of morality and to the wards of the flatterer. With the first he hopes to attract the eyes and with the second the ears of those Who are charmed and impressed only by what is visible and audible, and who judge virtue only with their senses. Hence the desire to be popular may be described as an outward display of moral acts and language, as though for the sake of virtue but really is to impress other people.

  67. Hypocrisy is the pretence of friendship, or hatred hidden in the form of friendship, or enmity-operating under the guise, of affection, or envy simulating the. character of love, or a style of life adorned with the fiction but not the reality of virtue, or the pretence of righteousness maintained only in external appearance, or deceit with the outer form of truth. Hypocrisy is the trade of those who emulate the serpent in their twistings and twinings.

  68. God is the cause of created beings and of their inherent goodness. Thus he who is puffed up with his virtue and knowledge, and whose grace-given progress in virtue is not matched by a corresponding recognition of his own weakness, falls inevitably into the sin of pride. He who seeks goodness for the sake of his own reputation prefers himself to God, for he has been pierced by the nail of self-esteem. By doing or speaking what is virtuous in order to be seen by men, he sets a much higher value on the approbation of men than on that of God. In short, he is a victim of the desire to be popular. And he who immorally makes use of morality solely to deceive by his solemn display of virtue, and hides the evil disposition of his will under the outward form of piety, barters virtue for the guile of hypocrisy. He aims at something other than die cause of all things.

  69. The demons of pride, self-esteem, desire for popularity, and hypocrisy, never act by trying to dampen the ardor of the virtuous man. Instead, they cunningly reproach him for his shortcomings where the virtues are concerned, and suggest that he intensifies his efforts, encouraging him in his struggle; They do this in order to entice him to give his full attention to them; in this way they make him lose a proper balance and moderation, and lead him imperceptibly to a destination other than the one to which he thought he was going.

  70. Neither do these demons hate self-restraint, fasting, almsgiving, hospitality, the singing of psalms, spiritual reading, stillness, the most sublime doctrines, sleeping on the ground, vigils, or any of the other things which characterize a life lived according to God, so long as the aim and purpose of a person trying to live such a life are tilted in their direction.

  71. A person pursuing the spiritual way is perhaps quicker to recognize the other demons, and so he more easily escapes the harm that they do, but in the case of the demons that appear to cooperate with the progress of virtue and pretend they want to help in building a temple to the Lord, surely no intellect is so sublime as to recognize them without the assistance of the active and living Logos who pervades all things and pierces “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit’ (Heb. 4:12) - who discerns, in other words, which acts or conceptual images pertain to the soul, that is, are natural forms or expressions of virtue, and which are spiritual, that is, are supranatural and characteristic of God, but bestowed on nature by grace. It is only the Logos who knows whether ‘the joints and marrow’, that is, the qualities of virtue and spiritual principles, have been united harmoniously or not, and who judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart (ibid.), that is, judges from what is said the invisible underlying disposition and the motives hidden in -the soul. For to Him nothing in us is unseen: however we think we may escape notice, to Him “all things are naked and open’ (Heb. 4:13), not only what we do or think, but even what we will do or will think.

  72. By ‘dividing asunder of soul and spirit’ is meant distinguishing between innate virtues, the principles of which we possess by nature, and virtues which are from the Spirit, the grace of which we receive as a free gift. The Logos discriminates with exactness between the two.

  73. The intentions and thoughts which the Logos discerns are the soul’s relationships with divine principles and thoughts, and the causes of these relationships. For an intention moves the mind, which has such a relationship; and a thought is directed towards a specific end, which in this way acts as a cause.

  74. If God is essential knowledge, then God is subordinate to the intellect, for clearly the intellect is prior to all knowledge that it embraces. Therefore God is beyond knowledge because He is infinitely beyond every intellect, whatever the knowledge it embraces.

  75. What man without the divine Logos dwelling in the depths of his heart can overcome the invisible wiles of the dissembling demons? How can he on his own, keeping himself free of all con- course with them, found and build the temple of the Lord, like Zerubbabel and Joshua and the heads of the clans, who expressly announced to the deceitful spirits of pride, self-esteem, desire for popularity and hypocrisy: “You cannot share with us in the building of the house for the Lord our God; we alone will build for the Lord of Israel’ (1 Esd. 5:70-71)? For concourse with the demons brings about the decay and destruction of the whole building, and strips the grace of beauty from divine offerings.

  76. Nobody who accepts, as partners in his struggle for virtue, any of the four demons we have mentioned can build for the Lord. If he does accept any of them, as a result of his efforts he will not find God, but will be confirmed in the passion that he consolidates through his virtue.

  77. The demons that wage war on us through our shortcomings in virtue are those that teach unchastity, drunkenness, avarice and envy. Those that wage war on us through our excessive zeal for virtue teach conceit, self-esteem and pride; they secretly pervert what is commendable into what is reprehensible.

  78. When the demons attack us invisibly in the guise of spiritual friendship, pretending that they want to accomplish the death of sin by means which in themselves are good, and when they say, “Let us build with you the temple of your Lord’, would that we might always reply, “You cannot share with us in the building of the house for the Lord our God; we alone will build for the Lord of Israel’ (1 Esd. 5:70-71). ‘We alone’ because, having been freed from the spirits that fight against us through our shortcomings in virtue, and having escaped from them, we do not now want to be pierced by those that excite our pride by encouraging us to excessive Zeal; because if that happened our fall would be far worse than if we had fallen on account of our shortcomings. For had we fallen for this latter reason, there would have been a good chance of recovering, since we would be forgiven because of our weakness. But recovery is impossible, or at least difficult, if we fall because we have made ourselves hateful through our pride, and in place of what is right have set up something else which we regard as better. Yet in another sense we are not building the temple alone because we have the holy angels to help us to do what is good; indeed, we even have God Himself, who reveals Himself to us through our works of righteousness said builds us as a holy temple, fit for Himself and free from every passion.

  79. Virtue may be defined as the conscious union of human weakness with divine strength. Thus the person who makes no effort to transcend the weakness of human nature has not yet attained the state of virtue. And that is why he goes astray, because he has not yet received the power which makes what is weak strong. On the other hand, he who willfully relies on his own weakness instead of on divine power, regarding this weakness as strength, has completely overshot the bounds of virtue. And that is why he goes astray, because he is unaware that he has left goodness behind; indeed, he mistakes his error itself for virtue. Thus the person who makes no effort to transcend the limits of his natural weakness is more easily forgiven, because indolence is the main reason for his lapse. But he who relies on his own weakness instead of on divine strength in-order to do what is right, is likely to have lapsed because of willfulness.

  80. When it is said that ‘the just man’s prayer, made active, has great strength’ (Jas. 5:16), I understand such prayer to be made active in two ways. The first is when the person who offers prayer to God supports it with works performed in accordance with the commandments. When he does this his prayer is not merely a matter of words and of the hollow sound of the tongue, and therefore ineffectual and without real substance, but it is effectual and living, animated with the actual fulfilling of the commandments. For prayer and supplication are given real substance when the commandments are fulfilled through the practice of the virtues. That is why the just man’s prayer is strong and has the power to do all things, for it has been made active in this manner. The second way in which a Just man’s prayer is made active is when another person asks for his prayers and then actually carries out in practice those things for which he requested the just man to pray; for in such a case this other person “not only corrects his former mode of life but also, through his turn for the better, fills the just man’s prayer with dynamic strength.

  81. No benefit comes from a just man’s prayer if he who asks for it finds more pleasure in sin than in virtue. For Samuel mourned over Saul when he sinned, but he was not able to obtain God’s mercy, for his grief was not supported by the necessary change of life on the part of the sinner. Hence God put an end to the pointless grief of His servant, saying to him, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?’ (1 Sam. 16:1).

  82. Again, when the compassionate Jeremiah appealed to God on behalf of the Jewish people because in their madness they deludedly worshipped the demons, his prayer was not heard; for it was not supported by the actual conversion of the godless Jews from their errors. Hence God also made him desist from his profitless prayer, saying: Do not pray for this people, do not ask for them to be shown mercy, and do not approach Me with farther intercessions on their account, for I will not hear you’ (Jer. 7:16. LXX).

  83. It is indeed the height of folly, not to say of madness, for a person who deliberately takes pleasure in destructive sins to seek salvation through the prayers of the just and to ask them to obtain forgiveness for what he actively glories in, denied as he is by his own free choice. If he really hates what is evil, he should not ask for the prayers of a just man and then allow them to become void and ineffectual; but he should make them active and strong, so that winged with his own virtues they may reach Him who has power to grant forgiveness for sins.

  84. The prayer of a just man has great strength when it is made active either by the just man who offers it or by the person who asks the just man to offer it for him. When it is made active by the just man, his prayer gives him direct communion with God who has the power, to grant what he asks. When the prayer is made active by the person who has asked the just man to pray for him, it delivers him from his evil ways and disposes him to virtue.

  85. St Peter says, ‘In which you rejoice, even though for a short while you may have to suffer ‘distress from various trials’ (1 Pet. 1:6). But how can a person in distress because of such trials rejoice in what distresses him?

  86. There are two kinds of distress. The first is produced imperceptibly in the soul, the second palpably to-the senses. The first embraces the fall depth of the soul, tormenting it with the lash of conscience; the second pervades all the senses when their natural tendency to turn towards external things is checked by pain. The first kind is the result of sensual pleasure, the second of the soul’s felicity. Or rather, the first results from sense experiences that we deliberately embrace, the second from those we suffer against our will.

  87. Distress, in my opinion, is a state devoid of pleasure. Absence of pleasure means the presence of pain. Pain is clearly a defect in, or a withdrawal of, some natural condition. A defect in some natural condition is a disorder or passion in the faculty that functions naturally in that condition. Such a disorder involves the misuse of the natural function of that faculty in question. To misuse the natural function is to direct the faculty towards what does not exist by nature and lacks substantial being.

  88. The soul’s distress is the result of sensual pleasure. For it is sensual pleasure that produces distress of soul. Similarly, distress in the flesh is the result of the soul’s pleasure. For the soul’s felicity is the flesh’s distress.

  89. There are two kinds of distress. The first involves the senses and consists in the absence of bodily pleasures; the second involves the intellect and consists in the absence of the soul’s blessings. Trials, or temptations, are likewise of two kinds, the first subject to our will and the second not subject to our will. Those subject to our will beget bodily pleasure in the senses but distress in the soul. For sin when committed produces distress of soul. Those that are not subject to our will become apparent in sufferings undergone unwillingly; they beget pleasure in the soul but distress in the senses.

  90. Just as there are two kinds of distress, as I have already explained, so also there are two kinds of trial or temptation, the one willingly accepted and the other contrary to our wishes. The first produces intended pleasure; the second inflicts unintended pain. For temptation willingly accepted leads to pleasures clearly intended by deliberate choice. But a trial undergone contrary to our wishes produces sufferings which are obviously not intended by deliberate choice. The first produces distress in the soul, the second in the senses.

  91. Temptation willingly accepted creates distress in the soul, but clearly produces pleasure in the senses. A trial undergone contrary to our wishes produces pleasure in the soul but distress in the flesh.

  92. I think that when our Lord and God was teaching His disciples how to pray and said, “Lead us not into temptation’ (Matt. 6:13), He was teaching them to pray that they should reject the kind of temptation which .we accept willingly, that is, to pray that they should not be abandoned to the experience of temptations which, when willingly accepted, lead to intended pleasures. But I think that when St James, called the brother of the Lord, was teaching those struggling for truth not to be afraid, and said, ‘My brethren, regard it as a great joy when various trials befall you’ (Jas. 1:2), he was speaking with reference to the kind of trial which is not subject to our will, that is, to trials which are contrary to our wishes and produce suffering. That both these interpretations are correct is clear from the fact that the Lord at once adds, “But deliver us from the evil one’, and that James continues: ‘Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance; and let this endurance come to fruition, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing’ (Jas. 1:3-4).

  93. The Lord teaches us to pray that we may reject temptations subject to our will because these produce pleasure in the flesh and pain in the soul. St James urges us to rejoice in trials contrary to our wishes because these banish pleasure from the flesh and pain from the soul.

  94. A perfect man is one who by means of self-control fights against temptations subject to his will, and who endures with patience trials that are contrary to his wishes. And an entire man is one whose practice of the virtues is completed by spiritual knowledge, and whose contemplation does not remain without practical effect.

  95. Since distress and pleasure each affect both the soul and the senses, he who cultivates the soul’s pleasure and patiently accepts the distress of the senses becomes tested, perfect and entire. He is tested by experiencing the contrasting effects of pleasure and distress in the senses. He becomes perfect because he fights unremittingly against pleasure and distress in the senses with self-control and patience. He becomes entire because, through constant obedience to the intelligence, he maintains the conditions that combat the mutually conflicting experiences of pleasure and distress in the senses. By these conditions I mean the practice of the virtues and contemplation, which he holds together without allowing the one to be in the least disjoined from the other: his actions manifest his contemplative knowledge and his-contemplation is protected equally by the intelligence and by the practice of the virtues.

  96. He who has had experience of the distress and pleasure of the flesh may be described as tested because he has experienced both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects of the flesh. A perfect man is one who with the power of his intelligence has struggled against the pleasure and pain of the flesh and has overcome them. An entire man is one who keeps both his practice of the virtues and his contemplative life unvarying through the intensity of his longing for God.

  97. Distress of soul is of two kinds. The first is distress for one’s own sins; the second is distress for the sins of others. The cause of such distress is clearly the sensual pleasure either of the man who feels distress or of those about whom he is distressed. For strictly speaking there is scarcely ever any sin in man that is not first generated by the soul’s witless attachment to the senses for the sake of pleasure. And the cause of pleasure in a man’s soul is obviously the distress which he feels in his senses when he delights and rejoices in his own virtues or in those of others. For again strictly speaking there is scarcely any virtue in man unless it is first generated by the soul’s deliberate detachment from the senses.

  98. When the soul is free of all impassioned attachment to the senses, there is no sin whatsoever in man. Moreover, all distress of soul is preceded by pleasure in the flesh.

  99. The true origin of virtue lies in the soul’s voluntary estrangement from the flesh. And the person who subdues the flesh with voluntary sufferings imbues his soul with spiritual delight.

  100. When the soul has achieved detachment from the senses for the sake of virtue, the senses will of necessity suffer, for the soul’s capacity for devising pleasure will no longer be conjoined with them in a deliberately chosen relationship. On the contrary, the soul will now bravely repulse the assaults of natural sensual pleasure with self-control; through patient endurance it will implacably resist the attacks of unnatural and involuntary suffering; it will not abandon the godlike dignity and glory of virtue for pleasure which has no real substance; and it will not fall from the heights of virtue in order to spare the flesh by relieving it of the sufferings induced by the pain of the senses. For the cause of distress in the senses is the soul’s complete concentration on what accords with nature; and the pleasure of the senses is clearly supported by whatever activity of the soul is contrary to nature, for such pleasure can have no principle of existence other than the soul’s rejection of what accords with nature.