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TPL (Text) -- 9

Practical Principles

71 Demonic songs set in motion our desiring part and cast the soul into shameful imaginations. ‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ [Eph. 5, 19] ever call the mind forth to a memory of virtue, cooling our heated temper and withering the desires.

72 If those who wrestle are in a state of being afflicted and afflicting in return, and if the demons are wrestling with us, then they also, afflicting us, are afflicted in return. For he says: ‘I will afflict them and they are not able to stand.’ [Ps. 17, 39.] And again: ‘Those who afflict me, and my enemies, they themselves grew weak and fell.’ [Ps. 26, 2.]

73 Repose is conjoined to wisdom and toil to prudence. For it is not possible to acquire wisdom without war and it is not possible to accomplish the war without prudence. For to prudence has been entrusted the work of standing against the temper of the demons, prudence forcing the powers of the soul to operate according to nature and preparing in advance the road of wisdom.

74 The temptation of the monk is the thought which ascends through the passionate part of the soul and which darkens the mind.

75 The sin of the monk is the consent towards the forbidden pleasure of the thought.

76 Angels rejoice when vice is diminished; demons, however, when virtue is diminished. The former are servants of mercy and charity; the latter are subjects of anger and hatred. And the first, when they approach, fill us with spiritual contemplation; the second, when they draw near, cast the soul into shameful imaginations.

77 The virtues do not stop the attacks of the demons but they preserve us unharmed.

78 The practical life is a spiritual method cleaning out the passionate part of the soul.

79 The operations of the commandments are not sufficient towards healing completely the powers of the soul, if contemplations appropriate to these commandments do not also succeed to the mind.

80 It is not possible to stand against all the thoughts cast into us by the angels; it is possible, however, to overthrow all the thoughts [suggested] by the demons. A peaceful condition, on the one hand, follows the first thoughts; a disturbed condition, on the other hand, the second.

81 Charity is the offspring of dispassion. Dispassion is the flower of the practical life. The observance of the commandments constitutes the practical life. The guard of the commandments is the fear of God, which very thing is the offspring of correct faith. Faith is an indwelling good which very thing exists by nature even in those who have not yet believed in God.

82 Just as the soul, acting by means of the body, perceives the members which are ailing, thus so, the mind, operating its own native operation, recognizes its own powers and, through that which is hindering the mind (nous), finds the commandment which will heal the power.

83 The mind that is warring the impassioned war will not contemplate the reasons of the war, for it is similar to him who battles by night. Having acquired dispassion, however, it will easily recognize the cunning devices of the enemies.

84 Charity is the end of the practical life. Theology is the end of gnosis. The beginning of the first is faith; of the second, natural contemplation. And as many of the demons as assault the passionate part of the soul, these are said to be opposed to the practical life. As many again as trouble the rational part, these are called enemies of all truth and adversaries to contemplation.

85 No one thing of those things that cleanse the body remains with the body in those that are cleansed. Together, the virtues both purify the soul and remain together with the purified soul.

86 The rational soul operates according to nature when its desiring part aspires to virtue, the irascible part battles on behalf of virtue, and the rational part gives its attention to the contemplation of things which have come to be.

87 He who progresses in the practical life reduces the passions; he who progresses in contemplation, ignorance. And there is at some time the complete destruction of the passions; of ignorance, then, they say that of one part there is an end, but of the other part there is not.

88 Those things which according to their use are good or bad become constructive of the virtues and the vices. It is the work of prudence, then, to use these things towards one or the other end.

89 Since, according to our wise teacher, the rational soul is composed of three parts, when virtue occurs in the rational part, it is called prudence and understanding and wisdom. When it occurs in the desiring part, chastity, charity and continence. When in the temper, manliness and patient endurance. In the whole soul, justice. And the work of prudence is to conduct as general the war against the opposed powers; and to defend the virtues, to stand prepared against the vices and to administer neutral things according to the seasons. Of understanding, to manage harmoniously all those things that contribute for us to the goal. Of wisdom, to contemplate the reasons of bodies and bodiless [powers]. The work of chastity, to view dispassionately those objects which set irrational imaginations in motion in us. Of charity, to give one’s very self into the hands of each image of God, as to the Prototype, almost, even should the demons be attempting to pollute them. Of continence, to shake off from oneself with joy every pleasure of the throat. Not to dread the enemies and to persevere zealously in terrible things are of patient endurance and manliness. Of justice, to work a certain agreement and harmony of the parts of the soul.

90 The fruit of the seeds, the sheaves. Of the virtues, gnosis. And as tears follow on the seeds, thus joy follows on the sheaves.

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