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TPL (Text) -- 4

Against the Eight Thoughts

15 Reading, vigil and prayer stop a wandering mind. Hunger, toil and the anchoretic life wither inflamed desire. Chanting of the psalms, long-suffering and mercy put a stop to temper aroused. —And these things done at the appropriate times and in the appropriate measures. For the excessive and inopportune are for a little time only; and those things which last but a little time are damaging, rather, and not helpful.

16 Whenever our soul aspires to various foods, then let it be reduced to bread and water, so that it becomes grateful for even that small mouthful. For satiety desires various foods; famine, however, thinks that its fill of bread is blessedness.

17 A lack of water contributes greatly to chastity. And let the three hundred of the Israelites with Gideon who conquered Midian persuade you [cf. Judg. 7, 5–7].

18 As life and death occurring to the same person at the same time is not among the things that are possible, so charity existing together with avarice in a person is one of the things that are impossible. For charity is destructive not only of money but even of this, our very temporal life.

19 He who flees all worldly pleasures is an unapproachable tower to the demon of sorrow. For sorrow is the deprivation of pleasure either present or expected. It is impossible to repel this enemy when we have an attachment to something earthly. For there it sets its trap and works sorrow, and certainly wherever it sees us to have been inclined.

20 Anger and hatred increase the temper. Acts of mercy and meekness reduce even what temper already exists.

21 ‘Let not the sun set on our anger,’ [Eph. 4, 26] so that at night the demons do not greatly frighten the soul and make the mind more cowardly towards the war the next day. For the fearsome apparitions arise by nature from disturbances of the temper; nothing else, then, makes the mind thus a deserter as temper disturbed.

22 When, having laid hold of a pretext, the irascible part of our soul is deeply disturbed, then the demons suggest as good our taking up the anchoretic life, so that we do not, solving the causes of our sorrow, free ourselves from the disturbance. When the desiring part is greatly heated, then, again, they make us lovers of our fellow man, calling us hard and savage, so that, since we desire bodies, we encounter bodies. One should not be persuaded by these but rather do the opposite.

23 Do not give yourself to the thought of anger, battling in the intellect against him who has sorrowed [you]; neither, again, to the thought of fornication, imagining the pleasure to a greater extent. For the one darkens the soul while the other calls it to an inflaming of the passion; each, however, makes your mind to be filthy; and, during the time of prayer, imagining these images and not offering to God pure prayer, you immediately fall into the hands of the demon of accidie, which very demon springs upon such conditions and like a dog tears the soul to pieces as if it were a fawn.

24 The nature of the temper is to battle against the demons and to struggle in view of some pleasure or other. Wherefore, the angels, suggesting to us our spiritual pleasure and the blessedness from this, exhort [us] to turn our temper against the demons. The demons, again, drawing us towards worldly pleasures, press the temper hard to battle, contrary to nature, against men, so that our mind, darkened and falling from gnosis, becomes a traitor to the virtues.

25 Watch yourself lest you ever drive one of the brothers to leave, having provoked him to anger, and you not be able in your life to avoid the demon of sorrow during the time of prayer, the demon having become for you ever a thorn.

26 Gifts extinguish rancour. And let Jacob persuade you, who insinuated himself into Esau’s good graces with gifts, Esau who had gone out to meet him with four hundred men [cf. Gen. 32, 7]. But let us who are poor fulfil the necessity with a meal.

27 When we fall into the hands of the demon of accidie, then with tears let us make the soul into two parts, the one consoling and the other being consoled, sowing good hopes in ourselves and intoning this incantation of the holy David: ‘Why are your sorrowful, o my soul, and why do you trouble me? Hope in God, for I will confess myself to him, Deliverance of my face and my God.’ [Ps. 41, 6.]

28 One should not at the time of temptations abandon his cell, weaving supposedly reasonable pretexts, but rather one should sit inside the cell and patiently endure and receive bravely all those [demons] that come upon him, and, most especially, the demon of accidie, which one being heaviest of all, certainly makes the soul extremely tested. Fleeing such struggles teaches the mind to turn out to be unskilled and cowardly and a fugitive.

29 Our holy and most practical teacher used to say: ‘Thus must one ever prepare the monk, as one who will die tomorrow; and thus, again, to use the body, as living together [with the monk] for many years. The one cuts off the thoughts of accidie,’ he said, ‘and makes the monk more zealous, while the other guards the body whole, and ever preserves the continence in equal measure to the body.’

30 It is difficult to elude the thought of vainglory. For what you do towards its destruction becomes for you the beginning of another [thought of] vainglory. The demons do not oppose themselves to each one of our correct thoughts, but to some of those correct thoughts are also opposed those very vices according to which we have been conformed.

31 I knew the demon of vainglory to be harried by almost all the demons and standing insolently on the corpses of the demons which were giving chase, and manifesting to the monk the greatness of his virtues.

32 He who has attained to gnosis and has harvested the pleasure which comes from it will no longer be persuaded by the demon of vainglory even should it present to him all the pleasures of the world—for what could the demon even promise that would be greater than spiritual contemplation? Insofar as we are without a taste of gnosis, let us work on the practical life willingly, showing to God our goal, that we do everything for the sake of his gnosis.

33 Bring to remembrance your former way of life and your ancient faults and how, when you were passionate, by the mercy of Christ, you passed towards dispassion and how again you left the world which had many times humbled you in many things. And reckon this too for me: who is it that guards you in the desert and who is it that expels the demons that gnash their teeth at you? For, on the one hand, such thoughts work humility; and, on the other hand, they do not admit the demon of pride.

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