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TPL (Text) -- 6


40 It is not possible at all times to maintain the usual rule and it is necessary to pay attention to the season and to make an attempt to keep the possible commandments, as much as is possible, of course. For the demons themselves are not ignorant of the seasons and other such things. Whence, setting themselves in motion against us, on the one hand they impede what it is possible to do, and on the other hand they try to force us to practise what it is not possible to do. For, on the one hand, they also impede those who are ill from giving thanks for their sufferings and pains and from exercising long-suffering in regard to those who are attending on them; and, on the other hand, again, they exhort those who are exhausted to keep continence and those who have been weighed down to chant psalms in an upright position.

41 When we are required to sojourn in cities or towns for a little time, then let us be together with secular persons maintaining our continence, certainly, with a greater strictness, lest our mind, being made gross and deprived of its customary carefulness by reason of the present circumstances, do something that we would not want, and become a fugitive under the blows of the demons.

42 Tempted, do not first pray, before you say certain words with anger towards him who is afflicting you. For when your soul has been conformed by the thoughts, it happens that not even your prayer will be pure. If, however, with anger you say something towards them, then you confuse and completely obliterate the mental representations (noemata) of the enemies. For it is the nature of anger to work this very thing even on the better mental representations (noemata).

43 It is necessary to know well the differences among the demons and to note their seasons. We will know from the thoughts; the thoughts from the objects; which of the demons are rare and heavier and which unintermitting and lighter and which suddenly leap upon [the man] and seize the mind towards blasphemy. It is necessary to know these things so that, when the thoughts begin to put their proper materials into motion, then before we have been greatly put out of our familiar condition, we say something towards them and note which one is present. For thus we ourselves will easily make progress with the help of God and make those [demons] fly away in pain and full of admiration for us.

44 When the demons, battling against the monks, are unable to accomplish anything, then, withdrawing for a bit, they keep watch which of the virtues is in the meantime neglected, and, suddenly making an attack on that virtue, they tear the wretched soul to pieces.

45 The wicked demons bring to their aid the demons which are even more wicked than they. And, opposed to each other in their dispositions, they agree only on the destruction of the soul.

46 Let not the demon trouble us which seizes the mind towards blasphemy against God and towards those forbidden imaginations which I have not even dared to commit to writing, nor let this demon cut off our zeal. For the Lord is ‘he who knows the heart’ [Acts 1, 24], and he knows that not even when we were in the world were we frenzied with such madness. The goal of this demon is to make us stop our prayer, so that we do not stand before the Lord our God nor even dare to extend our hands [in prayer towards him] against whom we have conceived of such things.

47 A certain word spoken or a movement of the body which occurs becomes a sign of the occurrences in the soul, through which sign the enemies perceive whether we have their thoughts within and are in travail, or whether, rejecting them, we are paying attention to our salvation. Only God, who has made us, knows the mind, and he does not require signs so as to know the things hidden in the heart.

48 The demons wrestle with seculars more by means of objects; with monks, for the most part, by means of the thoughts. For the monks are deprived of objects because of the desert. And as much as it is easier to sin in thought than in action, so much more difficult is the war in the intellect from that which is joined by means of objects. For the mind is an easily moved sort of thing and hard to restrain from the lawless imaginations.

49 We have not been commanded to work, to keep vigil and to fast continually, but it has been legislated for us that we ‘pray unceasingly’ [1 Thess. 5, 17]. For the former, curing the passionate part of the soul, also require our body for their practice, which body because of its own weakness is not adequate to the labours. Prayer, however, prepares the mind to be vigorous and pure for the battle, for it is the nature of the mind to pray—and without this body—and to give battle to the demons in favour of all the powers of the soul.

50 If some one of the monks should wish to gain an experimental knowledge of the savage demons and to receive the habit of their art, let him pay attention to his thoughts and let him note their intensifications and their relaxations and their mutual connections and their times, and which of the demons are they who are doing this and which follows which demon and which does not follow the other. And let him ask from Christ the reasons of these things. For the demons are altogether savage with those monks who share in the practical life in a more gnostic way, wishing ‘to strike down with arrows on a moonless night the upright in heart’ [Ps. 10, 2].

51 Having kept observation, you will find two of the demons to be very swift and almost to run ahead of the movement of our mind: the demon of fornication and the demon which seizes us towards blasphemy against God. But the second is but for a little time and the first, if it does not set our thoughts in motion with passion, will not impede us towards the gnosis which is of God.

52 To separate the body from the soul pertains only to him who joined them. To separate the soul from the body is within the scope also of him who aspires to virtue. For our fathers call the life lived in solitude a meditation on death, and a flight from the body.

53 Let those who evilly nurture the flesh and ‘provide for it towards desire’ [Rom. 13, 14] condemn themselves and not this very flesh. For those who have acquired dispassion of the soul by means of this very body, and who have to an extent given their attention to the contemplation of existent things, know the grace of the Creator.

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