August 25th, 1982, Serial No. 00998

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Monastic Spirituality, Set 7 of 12

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#item-set-187

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This morning, I can't resist saying a little more about that Discourse 9, on both the subject of truth that we were on, because it's so fertile, it's so central. Actually all of Dorothy's subjects, you can follow them on forever, and you really find out what he's talking about. You find that those lines really extend into tradition and also into life. Let me resume just a moment. I'll try to wind this up quickly and then go on to number 10. Remember, there were three kinds of falsehood. Falsehood in the mind, suspicion, which we identified as largely being projection or a momentary. Falsehood in words, in which we pretend to be, or claim to be, or claim to want, or claim to be doing something that we're not really. And falsehood in life, in which we actually pretend, with our life, to be something we're not. Or rather, we just have two levels, as it is with all of these, we have two levels.

[01:01]

The surface, which is not in accord with what's underneath, or with what we really are. And then we saw that notion of the false self, in which they all sort of converge, all these kinds of falsehood. It's as if underneath them there's a lie told to ourselves, there's an inconsistency or a break in the continuity, the truth of our being. And that the true self is reached, or removed from the false self to the true self, through a contact with reality. But then we find that reality is an ambiguous thing, in a way, and that it means more than one thing for us. Or let me say, truth means more than one thing for us. If we think of truth, and if we're very religious people, and we can measure ourselves in this way, the way that we think of truth in a sense, if we're very religious people, we're likely to think of truth as strictly as being God's truth, okay? If you ask what's the truth, then sort of you haul up the flag, and it's God's truth.

[02:04]

And depending on how naive we are about it, we may or may not think that we've got full possession of it. So first I identify the truth with God, and that's right, but then if I identify the truth with God as I understand him, with my perception of God, or with my possession of God, then I get less and less true. And then somebody will come along with another version of the truth, and we'll find ourselves completely at loggerheads. And his version of the truth will probably come from his experience, it will come from reality, okay? So we get a whole other view of the truth, in which the truth is what's out there. The truth is the nitty-gritty, is the existential, is, you know, the hard-cold truth, or the facts of life, or whatever you want to call it. And in the church today, you can find a lot of tension between those two visions of the truth. For instance, pastoral, the church will come out with a certain pronouncement, say, on birth control, okay? On the basis of sort of the eternal truths, as the church interprets them, as the truths

[03:07]

of scripture, God's truth. And then there's a lot of reaction from the point of view of experience, or the realities of the world, or the experience of reality, the facts of human life, and so on. So there's a tension between the two, similarly in our own life, and we have to relate to both of those. Now what I like about Merton is that he brings the two together, because in the end, this is the question for us, if we live a monastic life, are there two kinds of truth or is there one kind of truth? Now this thing has a hundred different expressions. For instance, in the Middle Ages you had the quarrel between faith and reason, in a sense. We're always in Christianity, we have this. And sometimes it looks like a struggle, as if the two are in contradiction. This is a terrible trap. If we get into the position where we have to fight reason in order to defend the faith, because we just can't do that, what we do is we retreat so far, if we retreat out of reason, out of rationality, that we get into a totally undefendable place. We're shut into a very narrow place. So, faith and reason are not contrarians.

[04:07]

And yet it's very difficult often to get them together so that you build a bridge that goes all the way to the other shore, from your faith, the way you believe about God, all the way over to the daily experience of life. That's a very difficult bridge to build, in all kinds of ways. It's very difficult to build a solid bridge, for instance, between your faith and the data of science, of physical science, of physics or chemistry or any of those things. They're not incompatible, but you just try and build them together into one structure. Okay. But then we have the matter of life. Maybe it's not so difficult with life, because science, physical science, positive science is something else. The point I'm trying to make is that we have to... The whole of our life, in a way, is a confounding reality. And part of the time it's the reality within us, which is God. And as we encounter him in prayer and in his Word, and then the rest of the time it's the reality outside of ourselves. But the two are not in compilation. They only seem to be in compilation. And actually we become true, we become real, as we learn how, somehow, to relate to both

[05:10]

of those realities in, what should I say, in a real way, in a true way. So we're between two truths, as it were, between two realities, and we become real insofar as we respond to both of them. They're like two millstones, in a sense, that grind us into truth. Let's put it in kind of a heavy way. Let me read some Martin quotes, because they're so meaty and easy to comment on. Tell me if I repeat any of these from last time, because I was in the same section last time. This is an anthology of Martin's writing. This is the section on truth and reality. It starts on page 63, if anybody's interested in our own Matthew. To discard an unacceptable present reality and mentally put something in its place is romanticism. Did I read this last time? No. To discard an unacceptable present reality and mentally put something in its place is romanticism.

[06:10]

That's romanticism in a negative sense, isn't it? Negative. You've got romantic poetry, that's okay, as long as you know what it is. But this is, romanticism in life is not all that. It's a negative thing. And it's bad in this life, he goes and says it, because it takes you out of the reality of where God is. So his thesis is that God is in reality, no matter what kind of reality it is. It can be the dirt out in the garden, it can be the dirt on the floor, it can be your work, it can be other people, or it can be prayer. But if it's real, it's God. God is in. That's his thesis. And that's beautiful, actually. That's Christianity. Or I should say better in a way, that's Catholicism. Catholicism, because Catholicism is the brand of Christianity that wants to get everything inside it, that has room for everything. That's the magnificent thing about it. And so it's liberating. And if you read Thomas Aquinas, that's what you'll find. He gets everything inside. You may not agree with the way that he does it. It is a marvelous liberation when we get our reason on the side of our faith.

[07:12]

Then God is not against us and we're against reason anymore, but somehow reason is on his side, and reason is liberating. This is what Rahner says. It's marvelous when he writes about faith and reason. He says that faith is the place where reason becomes free. Faith is the point at which human reason meets the mystery of God and finds itself rooted in it, and thereby finds itself liberated. So reason is not enslaved to a kind of materialistic logic anymore, but finds itself liberated as it touches the mystery of God. And this is what happens at the point of faith. He's locating it almost geometrically. That's beautiful. Because then you see your faith becomes very strong. It's like the faith of St. Paul, that nobody can really contradict, because he knows. And yet it's not his reason, his logic, his theology. There's not a kind of closed system. His dynamism comes from his contact with the mystery of God, or the fact that it's inside the mystery of God, and he's just measuring its dimensions from inside himself. It seems like the reason of all of this is to tell me that only man can express himself

[08:16]

in the greatest depth. That's right. There are all kinds of theories on how that happens. But it's not something that you can arrive at just by your own means. That's God's reason, in a sense. And that's what they say when they write about Augustine, that he's not just using human reason. Sometimes he is, but usually he's not. That's human reason illuminated by God. That's his theory, as a matter of fact. You've got a woman, you see. What is it? Never mind. What is it? No. Leave it natural. Contemplation does not mean prescending. That means abstracting, cutting off from present material reality for some other reality. Now, a lot of people have disputed that. More so in the past. Not so much now. There is only one reality, and here it is. We haven't got any more. To say that all present is base matter, and is all vile, and what is really good is up there somewhere, where I can't see it, is Romanticism. But it's Romanticism masking itself as spirituality. As contemplative spirituality. Because of the love that he has for his wife.

[09:17]

It's as if he has compassion for himself. Yeah. You know, and then he'll be sent to... Right. There's a lot of that. And if you read Plotinus, if you read Neoplatonism, that's exactly what he's saying. And then he gets into Christianity. And somehow, see, on a certain level, on a certain way, it's right. And there's a time for that kind of thing. There's a time for... But it's only temporary. And if a person does that permanently, or if they do it in a wrong way, they really get themselves into a box. Because somehow God wants us to relate to everything that's around us. That doesn't mean that we have to stay in the world, that we can't go into a monastery. But the point is, if you go into a monastery, reality is still 360 degrees around you. It's not just in your hatch. That's the symbol of the hatch in ourselves. Because there's that little square, you know, where you meet the world. And the rest of it is... And then you close that, and you're finished. So Thomas put a window on his window.

[10:21]

There is only one... Okay. It is right here. To make a hard and fast division between the visible and invisible is romanticism. Contemplation does not mean discarding the reality we've got. It means penetrating this reality. It does not mean discarding this reality we've got. It means penetrating the reality. Now, he's talking to monks, remember. And monks have already removed themselves from the world. If you say this in the world, it's dangerous. You know? And you can say that... I mean, Rajneesh could say something like this. You know who Rajneesh is? He's the guru who says, explore your sexuality. You know? Just go to the depths of it. I mean, experience everything, and you'll find God at the end of it. You know, he could say something like this, couldn't he? But it would be a whole other thing. That's not what Merton is saying, is it? He's talking about confining reality in a different way. For Rajneesh, it's a whole other question. Yes. Sure. The question is... Yeah. And Merton is saying something quite different, okay?

[11:24]

That's not the way that you relate to reality. But letting yourself go in that way, isn't it? He's talking about reality as something that you have to deal with. And on quite another level than the sensual level. But that becomes more evident as we go on. Contemplation does not mean discarding the reality with God. It means penetrating this reality. The reality we have is right here, and the spiritual is in the matter. God appears through the material world. You don't have to despoil the material world to get to God. That is, tear it away. He's right there. The reality we've got is matter and spirit together. The only way of contemplating anything is to contemplate what is real, and right there. But you have to see it in the right way. You can't be dominated by the material. Now, he's talking on one side of the street also. You have to realize, he'll come along in another moment and say, there are times when you have to withdraw from the external and from the material completely. And you might close your eyes, you know, in meditation or something like that. You're not relating to what's around you at that point. So, what he's saying, you can't absolutize that exactly either.

[12:27]

But, it's a valid principle. It's the valid principle. There are some things you can't experience. And that's what it is. Okay, he doesn't mean to say everything is experience, because he knows very well about the desert and the dark night, okay? So, at a certain point, that reality around you is going to go dead for you, okay? It's not going to say anything to you. There's a certain point where you've got to remove yourself from it, some realities, because they're too dangerous for you. They're too inflammatory for you. They're full of temptation and distractions for you. There's another point at which they don't say anything to you, which you don't really find God in what's around you. You don't, and yet you do. Because if you talk about just seeing God in nature, well, there may be years when you don't really see God in nature. Okay, but at the same time, you're finding God in the life around you and the people around you and your work and everything else around you by responding to it in that way, okay? So you really are, but it's not in the sense of experience during that time.

[13:31]

It's in quite another way. So it's not only experience. It's faith, and then it's the life that responds to our belief in God in all of this. And we could think that he's just talking about nature, and he talks about matter, but he's not. He's talking about all of that. But this is a turning point between that one-thing philosophy and the two-thing philosophy, which is what I'm selling, the two-thing philosophy. Life is two things instead of one. That life is inside and outside, and you cannot cut off one and take the other. Life is self and other. Life is spirit and matter. Soul and body. Self and world. Interior and exterior. Contemplative and active. And you cannot hack off one side or the other. That's the way our beings are constituted. Reality is the goal, and reality and act is the axis or pivot of a man's being. We must find this axis in ourselves. The axis is like an axle. It's the central line.

[14:33]

It's the core. We must find this axis in ourselves and center our lives upon it. Self-knowledge comes first, then the divine realities, and right action towards others are open to us. Of course, they all sort of go along together, but he says that, like St. Bernard, he says that the self-knowledge comes first, the truth in yourself first. And then that makes us able to relate to the other dimensions of the mind. Now, there's something about history so that this can't always be said in the same way. And he's able to say it more completely than it's often been able to be said in the past, presumably. See, there are times when you'll find monastic writers and monastic fathers preaching, no, you've got to cut off one part of reality. You've got to get away from one part of reality, as it were, permanently. And then life becomes, in some way, partial. Or you're not quite just to one reality.

[15:37]

See, the preference for faith, the preference for the spiritual is so strong that you don't really do justice to the other reality. However, that's not really, you can't really be tolerated. This is one of the things about the present time. You have to come to grips with, what do you call it, reason or nature or whatever. You can't get away from it in that way. See, it's as if everything affects everything else. I don't know how to put that properly in words. But there's a kind of exigency present now that was not exigent, that was not there another time. And at the same time, we've lost something. And what we've lost is the instinctive ability to respond to truth and to reality without reflecting on it. We reflect a lot. Because we reflect, we have a responsibility to relate to more reality, in a sense, than we did at another time. At the same time, we've lost the capacity to relate to that reality as simply and as clearly and as instantly as later because of our reflectiveness, our subjectivity. Pardon?

[16:44]

That's right. Now, they have to withdraw into reality. That's important. And also that has to mean that they're withdrawing into a struggle, not out of a struggle. But he withdrew into a struggle, didn't he? A real struggle. And what Martin is really talking about is a struggle. It's not so much a delightful encounter with reality. It's largely a struggle. The person who withdraws into solitude in that way, like Saint Benedict says, goes out single-handed to fight the devil in the desert. Okay? Now, that's a battle. That's not running away from it. And this is sort of the fundamental discernment. Is a person moving in the direction of his courage or his cowardice? Is he moving in the direction of greater energy and challenge or in the direction of laziness and withdrawal? Okay? The fundamental discernment is a struggle. Which, you can't always make it one instant. It has to be over a length of time. We should just work through the truth we know and not daydream. But deepen the part of God that's right there. It's as if he's saying that we've always

[17:49]

got enough truth and we're not using what we have. The reality is right here. The truth is right inside us. Find out what is real and what is true and hang on to these. Maybe there's a saying in Saint Paul that's very much like that. That it's not what is true and what is real it's what's good and what is virtuous. So Martin, in Latin the accent shifts. Typically modern. Typically existentialist I'm going to put it that way. Existentialism is to deal with present realities even giving them preference sometimes over the ideal of the elements or what should be or what we believe to be true. It's to confront things on the level of the present experience of life. The first thing you have to face is your own falsity. This is the first truth. Accepting your own falsity is the basis of reality. Then he quotes Guigo de Carcugia. You start loving truth with the acceptance of your own falsity. Now the only trouble with that is

[18:50]

the first truth is God. And if you make the first truth your own falsity you can fall into a hole. So you have to make pretty sure that there's a positive foundation under there. It's presumed here that there is. But there's a very strong faith under that in the reality of God. This can only be the second thing. We can always handle what is there that is reality. It is when we try to handle what isn't there what might be there what ought to be there that we make a terribly complicated process. So as we move towards reality we move towards simplicity in some way. Truth is a direct meeting face to face with God in the demands of the moment. The moment, reality, is the place where we confront God in our judgment. We are being judged and offered mercy now at each moment. At the end here Martin is quoting a book. We try to make

[19:52]

the world go by our will, our law, our way. We make ourselves the center of the universe. The whole idea of monastic asceticism is to get rid of this unreality which really is a burden to us. Besides reality which is, we try to make our own reality and this makes life very hard because we're trying to make a go of two things. God's reality and our own reality in quotation marks. Asceticism is to get rid of this fiction and therefore get rid of the burden and get in touch with reality which is simple. Get in touch with reality which is simple. This is the consolation of monastic life. When we really get into life the complexities sort of vanish. They're still there on one level but on another level they're not an obstacle anymore. They co-exist with the simplicity and we live in the simplicity. Our roots are in the simplicity. We are a burden to ourselves when we are trying to make everything go our way and having everyone act the way we want them to. When we are a law unto ourselves we drive ourselves crazy. He likes to do

[20:55]

that expression driving ourselves crazy or being crazy because for him that means out of reality. Things happen to us in life reality that is temptations, trials good things, bad things everything to show what is in it to show us what is in us. God wants this to be brought out. Everything we run into brings out what is in us. The situations which happen in life which we complain about it's not the situations it is us. God has put this there for a reason. God has put me into this situation and is bringing out something in me and now what can I do about myself? Things happen to us we have to confront things to bring out what is in us. What does that mean? Because you can talk about growth and you can talk about purification but he is talking about revelation and manifestation. As if before you can have healing before you can have growth and purification and sanctity you have to have a kind of revelation you have to have a kind of bringing out of sin.

[21:55]

Do you remember what St. Paul says in the letter to the Romans he says the law makes nothing perfect the law was given only to bring out sin to manifest sin and of course the law is what the Jew knocks up against. He knocks up against the law you shall not steal you shall not covet and he covets maybe he wants to steal and that shows what is in his heart because of the prohibition because of the limit and he says this is what life does for us and evidently we have to see it before it can be healed that whole business about having to come to conversion before we can receive having to confess our sins before we can receive the spirit the word somehow and the word is true both in its bright side and its dark side its shadow side which is our sin the word has to come and be accepted before the spirit which is the fullness this is Ricebrook contemplation is a loving

[22:56]

stretching out towards reality what he does there is say that contemplation is not reaching away from ordinary reality into something else but its a stretching out towards reality and reality no matter where you find it is reality whether its inside or outside up or down the total is reality so there is a kind of a gospel there you can see of the oneness of truth the oneness of reality and the oneness of life yeah right so there can be things there are things in the world which are there they are facts but they are not realities in other words there is a kind of a hierarchy of reality in the world so a certain TV program has one drop of reality and a ton of content and then there are levels of life which are which are sheer reality and so there is that whole thing so its not

[23:57]

its not we don't put the label reality on just everything that is out there but when he talks about reality he is largely talking about the difficult parts of reality ok the parts that we would be inclined to run away from you say well no that's not part of the contemplative life this is keeping you that's precisely the thing we have to confront and work through in order to arrive at contemplation ok so we have a tendency to split life and to split truth in spirituality and Christianity and a lot of our problems come from that the difficulty of the church with the modern world comes from the fact that we have allowed things to split in that fashion so we end up with the realm of faith over here and the realm of reason over here the church over here and the world over here the realm of the sacred over here and the good and the holy and the Christian and the realm of the unsacred the profane the sinful and the unchristian in a way and there's a truth

[24:58]

there others there but we draw the line in the wrong place we draw the line in the wrong place and so we get ourselves into a kind of ghetto position defensive fortress on a smaller and smaller piece of ground I think that the Christian has always been in you know he he enjoys his Sunday service and his spiritual he's very spiritual on a Sunday and he knows he needs this because he's longing for it but then he really sees no practical connection with his Monday through Saturday everyday living on a Sunday and there's no direction you should say there's no direction there's very little direction from the church to the other shrine in town to the Sunday service and that's really bad it's another expression of longing but it's so great because they're experiencing that spiritual

[25:58]

life that they're longing for every Sunday and then you find some people that really dedicate themselves to doing that to living on a very simple and involved level and usually they try to do it in a community usually they aim towards community because then it's possible somehow to get those two things together better there are more and more attempts to do that for instance the parish structure is under much criticism because it doesn't seem to fix that so they form different kinds of communities like in South America communities of base and so on they're able to do it better because you need support to be able to do that kind of thing you need to build a climate of faith in a sense that's able to get all of life inside of you even though they had to live in the world they found a way to do that and that's what

[26:58]

Saint Paul is talking about when he writes those letters how to get the two things together it's harder and harder to do because the world is so powerful it's powerful not only on the level of the flesh but it's powerful on the level of ideology and culture and it sort of leaks in so easily when I say that I'm using the word I'm trying to make it to a sense that's not the only sense of the word that's part of it and that sneaks into the church too the whole efficiency thing the church forgets how to be you know it's not really a positive thing it's just that you don't carry it with you and it inspires all the people to be passionate about it

[27:59]

and they end up following it see they've got a support system of some kind And the prayer meeting, that refreshes and recharges our bodies. See this is the situation that Rana talks about, the diaspora church, the diaspora situation. We haven't got a Christian civilization, everybody's inside, and you close the door and just, you know, regulate everything. But Christians are spread out, dispersed out into the world, and it's a totally, a totally secular thing around, but it's also a big opportunity in the world, because it can be terrifically liberal. Really, one can really find what Christianity is about in that situation, when the externals are no longer so protective, and so rigid. We've got these two realms, the realm of faith, the realm of ordinary life, the two kinds of truth, the realm of prayer, the realm of reason, the realm of the supernatural, the realm of the natural or realism.

[29:01]

We've got these different solutions. One solution is to absolutize faith, and we're talking about truth, and that's getting the sides of life to move. We absolutize faith. For other people, absolutize reason. For other people, don't absolutize either one, but they keep the two separated. In this area of my life, like on Sunday, faith, the rest of the time is reason, because I have to work, I have to go to the office, but those three are not really the solution. There's got to be some way to synthesize the two, get the two together, because that's what the Incarnation is about, that's what Christianity is about, is getting the two together. It's as if we're between two truths, and I'll repeat that again, we're between the truth of God, which is like inside of us, and the truth of the world which is outside of us. Besides all that, this truth, that truth, this way or that way, we're just in between,

[30:02]

and it's as if we get realized, and we're made real, in one way or another. You can draw it also the other way, with God outside and the world inside of you, where you can say that there isn't any separation, and in a sense there isn't, but in a very real way there is. That interiority of our experience of God is real. But when it works out right, then we should find God out there too. The point is that sort of the line should disappear in a certain way, when we're seeing it as it is. The present situation in the Church, obviously, is a situation of turning from a kind of exclusivism of the interior truth, or a kind of separation of the two, to really trying to get it together. So there's a lot of confusion because of that, but it has to happen. You can't hold the two apart anymore. You can't deny one. So Vatican II represents the time when the Church really comes face to face with that external reality, the external truth, in all kinds of ways.

[31:03]

But this started way back when. You can say that Aquinas is a central milestone in that progression, because Aquinas is the one who gives reason its autonomy. Beto is just a scandalizer. He's the one who says, well, you can let reason work, and it doesn't have to be controlled at every step by faith. It's got its own area. Philosophy has its own area, which is not controlled by faith. I could never figure that out, and I could never accept it. Now, what do we say to that? In the end, it seems to me, it's true. It's true, and that's the only thing that lets things grow, like the separation between Church and state, or the separation between science and theology. You've got to let it happen. But what happens in the end? It doesn't remain a separation until the end of time, because reason gradually finds at its root that actually it's related to faith. A new kind of relationship comes about, which is not a kind of tyranny, where faith dominates reason, and contains it within certain limits, but where reason discovers at its root that

[32:08]

it's found that mystery, and that it's not at all in contradiction with faith. And in fact, in some way, it should be able to feed from faith, when it's talking about things that really matter to human beings, when it's really talking about life. That's what should happen, even though there's never going to be a system that puts them together in a purely rational way, because that would be obviously wrong to expect a rational system which could include faith, because in the end, the system has to be faith. The system has to be faith, not reason. Therefore, it's not going to be made of iron pipe. It's not going to have those hard outlines, and be as clear and as solid. Okay, that's enough. I shouldn't get so abstract. Now we turn to conference number ten, discourse number ten. This one, the title in this translation, this is one of the ones where the translation takes

[33:14]

a bit of watching. On traveling the way of God with vigilance and sobriety. Okay, now, the translation, the title in Greek. It's peri to metaskopoukai nepsios, odegen tein odon to theou. With skopos and with nepsis. Are those words familiar to you? Now, skopos means resolution or purpose. In other words, you know where you're going, you know what you're doing. Nepsios, nepsis, I'm going to call it nepsis, because my Greek pronunciation is terrible. You can call it neepsis or nepsis, or even nipsis if you want. You've seen all the... Is skopos the word that Cassius used? Precisely. He used a Greek word. He used a Greek word, the same Greek word. Okay, so, that's purposefulness and the goal. If you remember the first conference of Cassius, I can read a bit of that,

[34:16]

because we're talking about skopos. And then nepsis is watchfulness or vigilance, or there's a whole spirituality of nepsis. So we're going to that. I'll give you some references in case you're interested. Because this is the thing that really expands on you. The Cartheist has his particular interpretation, and his little treatise on it. It's much bigger. Okay, a couple of references. First of all, Cassian conference number one on this skopos business, the business of purpose or resolution. Do you remember how when Seraphim of Sarov was asked how come the kingdom of heaven isn't here? How come Christianity is not here? What's missing? He said, just one thing, resolution. Purpose and resolution are not exactly the same thing with their neighbors. Purpose idea is you know what you want. You know what you're set out to do. And resolution is a kind of integral

[35:16]

connection of the will, relating of the will to that. So it's you really want it. And then how is nepsis connected to that? Nepsis is the continuity in that will, the continuity in that resolution, which means you don't let anything get away from you. It's a kind of watchfulness, vigilance, which is a persevering will to the goal. Persevering will to God, actually. And which therefore keeps God and has all these other aspects. Okay, first of all, Cassian Conference 1. Then Hauser has got this work on hesychasm. Some of you have looked into this. And he has a beautiful treatise on nepsis at the end of it, starting on page 75. He's a real expert on nepsis. So one after another he goes through and gives an analysis of the sex of it. He's a good scholar. He is a good scholar. He's a Jesuit. I think. Because he uses so many good words.

[36:24]

That's true. However, this is not as bad as some of them. It's pretty heavy. You don't have to get all of them. You get a few. I'll read a better one. That's kind of a basic source, because he tells you what all of the fathers say about him, the ones who put the nepsis on. Then Climacus I didn't find a degree of the latter on nepsis, surprisingly. But the sayings of the Desert Fathers, Book 11 is on that one should live soberly. Now that's nepsis, you see. In the Greek, that comes from nepsis. There are a lot of good sayings. Then in the Philokalia, in this new Philokalia, there's a glossary. Look up watchfulness. The translation is watchfulness. So if you look up watchfulness, you'll find a definition of nepsis. No, this is the first one. And then you're likely to find treatises on watchfulness

[37:24]

in any of the volumes. There's one or two in here. There's some more by Ezekiel. And that one by Ezekiel is very rich. So it takes me. This is the definition according to the glossary. And it's nice because they give you the Greek word and then they give you the English word that they're using and then they're consistent about it. So they always use the same English word to translate the same Greek word. So you know what they're talking about. Watchfulness. Literally the opposite to a state of drunken stupor. So sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness, inebriation. Hence, spiritual sobriety, alertness, vigilance. Now notice this involves both the mind and the will in some way. It's a resolute alertness. And remember the Eastern connotations of this. That book by Levine, The Gradual Awakening, and Vipassana Meditation. So mindfulness for the Buddhists is the next thing to this. Just about the same thing. There are different aspects and nuances

[38:27]

but basically it's the same idea. It signifies an attitude of attentiveness, prosoce, whereby one keeps watch over one's inward thoughts and fantasies, maintaining guard over the heart and intellect. So the guard of the heart, which we've heard so much about. And remember Romulus about watching the fish. Have a good fishing and watch the fish and catch the good ones and so on. So that's the same thing. In our translation, watchfulness is given a very broad definition. He's talking about Ezekiel here, that's the biggest in Ezekiel, so watchfulness and all of this. Watchfulness is given a very broad definition being used to indicate the whole range of the practices of the virtues. So it becomes a whole way of life. And in fact the Philokalia at first, the Greek title was The Philokalia of the Neptic Fathers. So that was the word that they used instead of ascetic, or instead of contemplative, or instead of monastic, they said neptic. So you see how general it becomes. Now how basic that attitude

[39:28]

is for them. That is, of the fathers who practiced and inculcated the virtue of watchfulness. This shows how central is the role of St. Nicodemus who got the Philokalia to this state. First something on Hatskopos This is Gershon. Conference 1. Western Asceticism. Page 195 All arts and sciences have some immediate goal or destination, Skopos, and also an ultimate aim, Attelos. You've heard of him. Or The earnest student of each art willingly endures the hard work and feral and expense by looking toward the goal which we will ultimately achieve. This is very Greek, this whole thing. The Greeks were workmen-like.

[40:29]

The idea of artisanship and the idea of using your reason in a craft. That kind of thing. That kind of thinking was very much theirs. Purposeful, logical thinking. And so that's where Gershon gets this. And he even uses the two Greek words. Now this is Abba Moses. It doesn't sound very much like Moses, but it's a rational rabble. Then he goes on and on. He gives a lecture on how important it is to know what you're doing and to stick to it and not let anything else get in the way. And then this whole thing about there's only one thing that's important and that's charity or contemplation. The two are the same thing. And purity of art. Nothing else may be allowed to interfere. So he's going to say that the Skopos, the immediate goal is purity of art and the ultimate goal is the Kingdom of Heaven. But what good is the Kingdom of Heaven if you don't know how to get there? You have to have something you can aim for. The Kingdom of Heaven can just be a phrase. So, this is saying something

[41:32]

about how the Fathers read Scripture, isn't it? It's not enough to have it in the head. You've got to have something you can relate to in an experiential way. In purity of art you can. Now, you might say that purity of art is just another word. But he's saying that it's an experience. Now, purity of art has a lot to do with nepsis, kind of obviously, because that's the guarding of the heart, isn't it? It's attention. Which both purifies the heart and comes from a pure heart, in a sense. It's an attitude which preserves itself in a certain way, okay? It's a sort of purity preserved by watchfulness. He's an active purity. Active purity. Or a kind of active purity, in the sense of finding, seeing, and excluding that which would contaminate the Kingdom of Heaven. Okay, something from Hauser on nepsis. It's on page 75. I'll put this on the shelf over there. And this book is on hezekiah,

[42:34]

hezekiasm, and the struggle to get to hezekiah, to arrive at that state of inner contemplative quiet is what he's been talking about. The hezekiahs had a special name for the great means whereby this battle for hezekiah is to be fought, and they called it nepsis. We use the Greek word and create the adjective neptic instead of giving a translation because there can be no completely adequate translation. Nepsis is a psychic concept in reality, at once so complex and so precise that no one word of a language unfamiliar with hezekiastic ideas could translate it, and at the same time do full justice to its historical content. So he keeps the Greek word. The oriental aesthetics ushered the word nepsis into the most glorious phase of its career. In earlier times it had immense sobriety in contrast with inebriation. The turn now came to designate that state in which the mind is master of itself the wise, well-balanced mind. In contrast

[43:36]

is that sort of mental inebriation in Greek mania you know like mania manic depressive intermenomania kleptomania which throws all equanimity overboard for any of a thousand reasons. Inebriation, moreover, is a symbol of mental ignorance. That is the state in which the contemplation is impossible. Then he quotes a lot of Gnostic stuff here about the hermetic writings. Somebody says nepsis is the disposition which makes gnosis, or the knowledge of God, possible. So nepsis is related to contemplation. It's the thing that keeps the mind and the heart in a state of contemplation in the proper disposition for contemplation and that keeps it home, as it were. That allows it to be carried on. Then he quotes a New Testament.

[44:37]

Saint Paul. Be sober. There he uses the word nepsite. Saint Paul uses the very word. Be sober and watchful for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. That's Peter. Three concepts appear closely related to one another already in this text. Nepsis, vigilance and mental attention. Then he goes on. He gives references. And then finally it's in Ephraim, it's in Dorotheus he says In studying Dorotheus' works we note constantly that he, like others before him relates nepsis to attention assiduity and good sense. Opposed to these is adiaphoria which means indifference carelessness. We ran into that one. I don't know if we ran into nepsis earlier in his discourses but we ran into adiaphoria which is indifference or carelessness where you just, you know, let go. False ameremnia which is carelessness. There's a good ameremnia, that of the gospel

[45:40]

don't take any heat for tomorrow and the lilies need a sower. There's a good one and a bad one. There is one expression of his that is Dorotheus well worth remembering and he quotes it in Greek to be sober in view of the goal that is to keep one's goal clearly in view see he combines the two right here nephane periton scopon to be sober in view of the goal that's why he puts those two together each of the virtues is a charism the fact that all of these venerable fathers speak of nepsis allows us and indeed compels us to consider their doctrine on this point is one of the essential characteristics of eastern spirituality so then he goes on to study it and the first thing he does is to quote Ezekias so I'll read what he quotes this is in the Philokalia it's on page 162 where Ezekias starts out on his long yeah, I think it's 162

[46:41]

it's the same text ok, I'll take a look for this nepsis is a spiritual method which with God's grace strips a man of all evil deeds and of all thoughts or words marred by passion provided however it's practiced perseveringly and with a light heart it's a different text it's written in the same language nepsis obtains for us as we advance in it and in proportion as our capacity increases gnosis that is knowledge of the unknowable God remember there's a bad gnosis, there's a medical gnosis there's a gnosticism, there's a good gnosis and the solution of divine hidden mysteries it leads us to the carrying out of all God's commandments as found in both the Old and New Testaments procures for us the good things of the world to come nepsis is properly speaking purity of heart something found only rarely among monks of our day now there's a surprising coincidence between Ezekias and Cassian an easterner and a westerner because it's Adam and Moses

[47:42]

purity of heart and nepsis skopos and nepsis nepsis is watchfulness between what he says is the skopos and nepsis purity of heart and nepsis and then you find the same thing in Cassian purity of heart and nepsis yeah when you use a means the means leads to an end which is sometimes the same thing so you practice love in order to attain love and that's what I was saying before that it's both the means by which you get purity of heart and it's purity of heart where it's both the purification and the purity maybe I didn't say that it's the same it's a practice and he says it's also the end which you reach the practice

[48:47]

and you see how notice this thing about the skopos and nepsis relates you to what was that thing he quoted to be sober in view of the goal to be sober in view of the goal to be neptic, to have nepsis in view of the goal means that nepsis itself is keeping a view of the goal so it's in direct continuity with the goal to have nepsis is continually to have the goal in your mind now in some way to be that way in a stable way is to be at the goal to be at the goal in your mind to be at the goal really a kind of unswerving attachment or adherence to the goal but at the same time when I say unswerving it means that you don't let anything else get in there so not letting anything else get in between you and the goal that kind of attachment to the goal

[50:09]

the eastern brothers are talking in the same direction but they don't tend to use that language of disattachment quite as much sometimes they do they just don't have any thoughts at all but sometimes they talk of expelling them not just letting them go but it's the same emptying of the mind the same disattachment purity of heart and purity of mind but we know that this is a kind of delicate thing, we have to be careful about how we say that, that we empty our mind the right way it is the purity of heart which Christ beatified with the words, blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God notice that business of the vision of the goal once again, here the goal is God it is something of great worth and therefore is bought only at a great price nepsis, dwelling permanently within a man serves him as a guide in the living of a life upright and pleasing before God indeed it may even be called the climb to theoria which is contemplation it teaches a man how to make the three parts of his soul function as they should here we are getting of course

[51:16]

the Greek psychology and how to keep the senses securely in hand it brings the soul to increase in the four cardinal virtues so it's getting very structured finally at the end of his paper strictly speaking nepsis is in itself sufficient guarantee of hezekiah so you've got nepsis, you've got hezekiah and you've got pure of heart see the final goal is the same it's got a bunch of names but it's the same one state it's like being an interior help given the atmosphere of silence and solitude but on one condition this nepsis must itself be a practical possibility what point would there be in telling a man who cannot control his passions, be on the lookout for the evil suggestions which may come before your mind and reject them immediately he simply could not it's like telling somebody to meditate and keep his mind quiet keep your mind clear he can't, just try it, he can't it's impossible the ancient psychologists of asceticism

[52:17]

were well aware that passion is not something that can be held in check by a despotic act of the will for passion weakens the will itself and it's innocent in some way like a parasite as we have seen they called the last stage of the psychological process which begins with the evil thought slavery, captivity to leave this sad condition behind however and work at healing the passions requires a good deal more than mental alertness see we kind of like that idea all you have to do is sit still and do something with your mind you know, that's the whole of the asceticism he says that's not enough alertness, yes but as part of a rigorous asceticism embracing the whole gamut of traditional practices both corporal and spiritual which go to make up praxis or the active life, practical life the life of asceticism praxis in fact is defined precisely as a spiritual method which wholly purifies the passionate part of the soul that's a vagueness I'm sure yet this is the very definition given for nepsis by Hezekias and what is more

[53:17]

Hezekias attributes to nepsis the qualities and effects which the ancients accorded to praxis we conclude that the term nepsis has two meanings first, in the narrower sense it denotes that part of praxis, that part of the active life the ascetic life, which consists in vigilance over thoughts the moment they arise in the wider sense nepsis is a synonym for praxis for the whole thing so for the whole ascetical life when using the word obviously we must avoid passing without indication from one meaning to the other the strict sense to the narrow sense so we can ask ourselves later what sense Dorotheus is using he's using it in a more strict sense and then it expands sometimes that's enough questions I'll have to ask you to write a paper sometime before we finish you can think about what would be an approach it doesn't have to be absolutely and specifically Dorotheus, it could also be on

[54:19]

your own personal view of the same

[54:23]