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22 All the unclean thoughts which persist in us on account of the passions lead the mind down to ‘ruin and destruction’ [1 Tim. 6, 9]. For just as the mental representation of bread persists in him who is hungry because of the hunger and the mental representation of water in him who is thirsty because of the thirst, thus the mental representations of money and possessions persist because of avarice, and the mental representations of foods and of the shameful thoughts which are begotten from those foods persist because of the passions. But also in regard to the thoughts of vainglory and in regard to the other mental representations this similarly will become manifest. It is not possible for a mind strangled by such mental representations to appear before God and to be crowned with the ‘crown of justice’ [2 Tim. 4, 8]. For also in the Gospels that thrice-wretched mind, dragged down by these very thoughts, excused itself from the meal of the gnosis of God [cf. Matt. 22, 2–7]. And, again, he who is bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness had his garment completely woven out of these very thoughts, which very thing he who called declared not to be worthy of such a wedding, since the wedding garment is the dispassion of the rational soul which has denied worldly desires [cf. Matt. 22, 11–13]. What, then, the cause is of the fact that the mental representations of sensible objects, when they persist, destroy gnosis utterly will be said in the chapters on prayer.
23 Let no one of those who live the life of solitude take up the life of solitude with anger, pride or sorrow; neither let him flee the brothers when he is troubled by thoughts such as these. For ecstasies occur from passions such as these, the heart from mental representation to mental representation, and from this one to another, and from that to another, bit by bit falling into a pit of lethe. We have known many of the brothers to fall into this very shipwreck, whom the remaining brothers with tears and prayer brought back again to a human life. Certain ones, having caught an irreversible lethe, no longer had the strength to find their first condition and, until today, we humble men see the shipwrecks of our brothers. This very passion occurs for the most part from the thoughts of pride. When someone takes up the life of solitude having a condition of this sort, he first sees the air in the cell to be fiery, and certain lightning bolts to be shining out by night around the walls; then voices of persons giving chase and being chased; and chariots with horses figured in the air; and all the house filled with Ethiopians and tumult. And from the exceeding cowardice, further, he falls into ecstasy and becomes exalted and from fear he forgets his human condition. For this reason, it is a necessity to take up the life of solitude with much humility and meekness, and with spiritual words to console the soul of this one and to speak the words of the holy David to it: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all those things he has given in turn, he who has forgiven all your transgressions, who has healed all your illnesses, who redeems your life from corruption, who crowns you with mercy and compassion.’ [Ps. 102, 2–4.] These things and the such-like speak to the soul just as a mother searching more sorely for her own child in a festal assembly lest one of the criminals snatch it up and depart; and certainly, through intense prayer, ever call the soul towards the Lord.