February 26th, 1982, Serial No. 01010

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Monastic Spirituality, Set 6 of 12


#ends-short; #item-set-189


On consultation, as he calls it, and actually what this is about is that whole business of spiritual fatherhood and the opening of the heart. It's related to a lot of other subjects, as often, you don't get the whole thing from the title, but it becomes obvious very quickly what he's talking about. The translation, as a matter of fact, is not very close, because the actual title in the Greek is that it's not a good idea to follow your own judgment, not on consultation, so he changes it pretty quickly. So the related subjects to this, the context, the whole spiritual fatherhood subject, the question of discernment, the question of self-will, and of course of opening the heart, not the whole business, but the false self, and then the question of obedience in general,


the whole guru subject. I've got a few references here, but we won't go far into this area, because it's immense now. You know, there's a whole revival of this notion of the spiritual father, which had been lost in our Western tradition for a long time, or let us say transformed into several other things. Since the monastic tradition itself had become very faint, very feeble, this tradition was taken over and split into several different areas, several different threads, one might say. And one strand into which it prayed, or frazzled, is the strand of simple obedience in a religious community, for instance, or obedience to a priest. Secondly, there's the strand of spiritual direction, and thirdly, there's the strand of sacramental confession, and all these three split apart, which is a strange situation. Spiritual direction is something that was sort of a term that was invented to cover


the spiritual guidance of people in the world, not the people in the religious community. So even in a monastic community, though, you tend to get those things separated, so a person conceivably could be relating to three different people. One would be his religious superior, the second would be his confessor, and the third would be his spiritual director. Now, that's not the way it was way back in the beginning. Very often it would be the same person. But not always. You notice this Gaza situation, as we saw from some of our preliminary reading, is a little special, in that you've got three or four people around with different roles. Remember you've got Bartholomew Pius, and you've got John, and you've got the Abba Salidos, and you've got Tarakias at a certain point. So there are at least two people to whom a lot of people are relating. One of them is the religious superior, and the other one is the spiritual father, the Abba. And even today, in the East, sometimes you'll find these two things divided. Religious superior and the Abba, the spiritual father, might be inside the monastery, or


he might be outside, he might be at home, helping him. We've talked about this before, Pahisios, for example. Some references about this, I won't give you a whole lot of them. One thing is that the Cistercian Symposium about three years ago at Minot, which was on the spiritual father, there were a lot of papers given on the spiritual father in a different tradition, including the Eastern traditions. Luth had a good one on the Eastern Christian tradition. I haven't found a folder with those papers. Did any of you have them? I might have them. Thomas Merton has written about that. He said that a couple of times. One time it was in the article on the spiritual father in the desert tradition, which was reprinted in Contemplation and Overaction. And Luth touches briefly in that article in Monastic Studies No. 9 on Confunction and the Experience of God. He touches on the opening of the heart, but he does it pretty well.


He locates it in the context of theological experience. Then he's got that other paper that I mentioned at the Cistercian Symposium. Then you've got Cashin in his second conference on discretion, chapters 10 through 16. He's covering a lot of the same ground that Derek Wilson is. But he's covering it in the context of discretion, which means how do you get to the point of discretion. He says you only get it by opening your heart to somebody else, presumably somebody who has discretion. You only get it through that humility. And then also in the Institution, Book 4, he talks about this very business. Book 4, Chapter 41. In the Sayings of the Desert Father, you've got that book on obedience. A lot of it's written in this area, because obedience shades into this thing. That's what they would be talking about. The things are opening the heart and then listening and then doing, of course. But it's all, for them, put under the rubric of obedience.


Then the Rule of Saint Benedict. Remember, in Chapter 4, he says, among the instruments of good works, these are things you know. Just make the connections. To dash down all one's evil thoughts against the dark Christ, the moment that they arise, and to open them to the spiritual Father. And then in Chapter 7, he's got that. And he's the fifth degree of humility. Humbly confess to the Abbot every unlawful thought as it arises in the heart, in the hidden sanctuary of Canaan. And the whole crust of the seventh chapter on humility, the Rule of Saint Benedict, is precisely that. To turn away from one's own will, to dislike one's own will. And we have to figure out what we mean by that, what we mean by our own will. Because obviously we can't hate our will, otherwise it's a reality. We can't even hate the good that our will desires. But there's something in us that we can. Something in us that we can turn away from.


Now the second degree of humility is, if anyone not wedded to his own will, I know a number of people, finds no pleasure in the encompassing of his desires. It fulfills with his practice the will of our Lord, I came not to do my own will, but the will of heaven sent me. Jill Son, in his book on the Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, goes pretty deeply into this whole business of voluntas propria, or self-will, in the theology of the Cistercians of the 12th and 13th century. Especially Saint Bernard, he's got kind of a deep theology of this. It's in a cenobitical context, but basically it's the same thing. And Father Desai, in his spiritual guide, has got a section on consultation, another section on self-will and obedience, which is pretty good. And he draws largely from Dorotheus, he draws largely from where we're studying here.


The continuity of the discourses of Dorotheus. Remember that first one on renunciation. As a matter of fact, the shortcut of renunciation, the shortcut to perfection, according to him, is this business of cutting off your own will. Cutting off desires. That's on page 88. Let me give you an example. In a short time, I can cut off ten such desires. You can take a walk in the park, which you don't do. If therefore we desire to be set free and to enjoy perfect freedom, let us learn to cut off our desires. And this is part of this whole business of consultation. It's being, first of all, skeptical about our own desires. The thought and the desire are almost the same thing. You'll notice that thought and will are the same thing here. And so to reveal our thoughts to somebody is to reveal our desires, to reveal our wills.


The ones that are significant are the ones that have an energy with them, the ones that have a movement with them, of whether desires or wills. Now we've got the discourse on humility. It's obviously a connection there. Another one on conscience. And notice that the one on conscience is a question of discernment. It's a question of getting a light which is beyond our own desires. So already we're relating to a point that's beyond the ego in some way. Another one on the fear of God. Remember, among the four ways of acquiring the fear of God, one of them is to attach oneself to a man who has the fear of God and to, how is it, as your spiritual director. That's obviously not the original language. Keeping in close and continual touch with a man possessed with the fear of God. So that's getting us to where we find ourselves today. And remember that the chief enemy there was that parrhesia, that self-confidence, which this kind of consultation, this kind of opening of the heart, is precisely aimed against.


There's also the example of Dorotheus, which we'll get into after we get into this discourse, because he goes back to his own experience. Okay, a few preliminary ideas. I think it's good to do that before we dive into the text, and then we'll come back to it afterwards, and then try to put it back in the context that we're more familiar with. First of all, the notion of the two selves, that shallow self, whether we want to call it a false self or not. The ego, and then the true self. And the ego-self and the ego-will are practically the same thing. The way that the ego expresses itself, or even the way that the ego knows itself, very often is by its will. In fact, it's very mysterious and interesting, the relationship of the mind to the will, and both of them to our self. When we talk about self, what is a self? We don't know what the self is. It's like a center, like a point that doesn't occupy any space. But we know our will and we know our mind, at least at different moments.


And somehow the self and the mind and the will, this kind of Trinitarian pattern, is the circle, is the sphere in which we live, in which we're locked in a way. Depending on to what extent we allow that marriage of our own mind and our own will to remain, what do you call it, opaque. In other words, not letting anything break in from beyond itself. Now, what's going to break in from beyond itself? Light. But maybe the only way that light can break in from beyond it is when it opens up and reveals something of what it is. There's a kind of communication there. So if we want to receive anything from outside, it's as if we have to open too. And that's what this thing is about. This opening of the heart by which we let something out and we let something in. We reveal ourself and at the same time we become able to receive something. Now, we're talking about this little consciousness here, this ego consciousness, but we believe that there's in us something beyond that, something deeper than that. And of course, Martin's thinking is often in the background, the idea of the deep self.


But it's not so easy for us directly to relate to that deep self. The seed of our consciousness may be somewhere else. And so we don't even know it often from the ego. And so we need a point of reference outside ourselves, as if we had to throw a rope out to some fixed point outside of ourselves in order to discern the shallow self from the deep self. Because everything that we experience and think comes through that same ego in a way. It comes through the seed of our consciousness as we know it. That's what kind of fuzzy thinking means. I think it's clear enough already. And so, since we don't know how yet to listen to that interior teacher, who is at the same time our deep self in Christ, the Holy Spirit, God, we need an outside reference point in order to check it out, until at least we are, what would you call it, free enough. Free and strange, we're free enough in our will so that we don't have to be blind in our intellect. Free enough so that we can listen. Because we're not going to listen unless in some way we can follow.


We're made that way that we're going to bury the light unless we're somewhat free to follow. Because otherwise it won't be joy to it as the light should be. It will be pain. Remember how it says in the scriptures somewhere, they hated the light because their works were evil so they didn't come into the light. When the light came into the world it killed them. And it's the same with us. We shut the light off if we don't want to live in it. And if our life and our will and our desires and what's in our heart is not such that we can comfortably live in the light, then we're not going to like to let the light in. So by ourselves we're sort of locked into a deadlock, unless we can refer to somebody outside, because God can't get into that in some way. He can't, you know, he can't like he did with Saint Paul, he can break right into it. But ordinarily he doesn't. His ways, his other ways. As you can see by the fact of the Incarnation that he comes in the form of a man and comes up to people from outside and knocks on their door and addresses them. We were talking about that last time. But he comes from outside. He comes in human form. It's that law of the Incarnation, that law of sacramentality, but also the law of community


and of solidarity, somehow. He won't save us alone. He won't save you alone. He won't save you alone either on a horizontal level, because you have your brothers, but he won't save you alone on a vertical level either, as far as guidance is concerned. Somehow we have to, somebody else has to be in the picture. That's the way he wants it. But that somebody else, of course, is not just one other person, but that somebody else is a sacrament of everybody and a sacrament of God himself in some way. In other words, somehow the relationship has to be triple. He doesn't like doubles. He doesn't like just pairs. He likes threes for some reason. And so the relationship has to be triple. There has to be another person in it, and that other person stands for everybody else and everything else. It stands for God too. In other words, it has to be a relation. It somehow involves a totality. And that seems to be why we have to have another person, another living person to relate to in this way. And to the extent in which we're free to open ourselves to that person, to that extent we're really fortunate that we can become free.


If we're not free, then we can't become free. Because we make ourselves free by opening, we can make ourselves free. We can be disappointed. We can be betrayed. But to the extent that we have a climate around us that reassures us and enables us to trust and to open ourselves to that extent, we can become free. And that's what the community and the spiritual fathers would do, of course, in the Master Church, is to give a person a climate that he can trust enough to open himself up to. As he opens himself up, he discovers the truth. He opens himself up to God. And then he gets to the truth himself. And then he's free. The lights. Okay, so we've got this ego-self and the ego-will, and there's a kind of a blindness, this sealed-in world, which is self-sufficient and also deaf. And it's funny that we've got a light inside of ourselves. This light, as they say, of the active intellect. This light of the mind, which is a reality in itself.


And we get a kind of cycle going in ourselves. There are various cycles we can go. We can get on in ourselves which are really self-contained and don't necessarily relate to God and don't relate to anybody else. These isolated cycles that we get into. And one of them is the spiritual cycles. The isolated spiritual cycle. Which we're particularly in danger of because we're born individuals. We start out as a man. We don't start out, we don't grow out of community. It seems that people in other ages always grew out of, they sort of grew out of a cluster. They didn't grow from a scattered seed. We can get sealed into the... The purpose of the monastic life is to move from A to B, is to move from the shallow self to the deep self, to get liberated from that isolation of the shallow self. But we can get sealed into it when we appropriate spirituality. Now here's the trap. That when the shallow self begins to think that it's the deep self, when we begin to


think that we've got God in some way, or we've got spirituality, that's when we're really in danger. That's the thing that even God can't break through in a way. That's the thing of the scribes and the Pharisees and that's the drama of the New Testament. In fact, there's a drama of the Old Testament too. Is God running up against the people who think they've got God? Who think they are righteous? Who think they somehow have got religion? And in some way they've heard, they've got the truth. They've got the light and so on. And once they think that, then the light can't get in anymore. They've got all they want and they don't want any more than he did. And so no more comes in. Nothing more. The basic problem is pride, which is invisible. In fact, it's blindness, it's darkness itself. We can't see it. The only way we can see it is with the help of somebody else. It's the darkness of our own isolated, cut off, appropriated light. And the light of our own center, the light of our own core, of our own intellect,


we can think is the light of the Holy Spirit, of God. This drama comes to its climax. We had the same thing in our reading from Isaiah this morning, about the people who are fasting now and they say, well, we're seeking God, but why doesn't God come? It's because they were locked into their own thing, because they were locked into the light that they had, and the truth that they had, and they weren't sharing with other people. They weren't really relating. They weren't really relating even to God. And they didn't really maybe want God. They only wanted something from him. They had appropriated his justice, appropriated his grace. If you appropriate grace, it dies. If you put it in a bottle, if you just take it off, if you detach it from its source, it dies. This is what happens when Jesus runs into the scribes and Pharisees in the Testament. They've appropriated religion. It's their establishment. They've got it. And so when the truth comes, the light comes, they don't want any part of it.


The test seems to be the love of brethren, humility, peace, and a kind of freedom. The peace which is open, the peace which is not bottled up just inside ourselves. We can have a peace, we can have a hesychia, it's all our own. It's in a pint bottle with a stopper in it. And yet it's not free. It's very easily threatened. It has to be carefully protected. But the real sign is the peace that's free to be shared, that we can even lose without losing it. When we lose our peace, when we lose our balance, we don't really lose our peace. Okay, let's follow Orothea's discourse then. I'm in need for consultation, but it's not good to follow one's own light. Now here again, I didn't bring this up, but we could easily have a problem with this.


We say, what else have you got besides your own light? We have to follow our own mind. If we can't trust in our own mind and our own judgment, what can we trust in? And what are we after if we're going to annihilate our own judgment? So it's obvious enough the problem that we have with it. You can't absolutize this anymore than you can absolutize any other monastic teaching. But you can go pretty far over on this side without killing yourself. You can go pretty far over on this side without really sustaining damage. And it's like a needle's eye that people have to go through in order to get free, to shake off the slavery of their own will and their own ego. Okay, he starts out with this quotation from Proverbs. Those who have no guidance fall like leaves, but there is safety in much counseling. The leaf is an interesting element. The basic image there is separation, but it seems like they wither before they separate.


The leaves wither before they fall off, and that's why they fall off. Evidently why they've withered is that the sap's not falling into them, and evidently the sap's not falling because they've stopped communicating in some way. They've closed themselves off, and so they wither up, and they dry up, and they fall off the tree. So is a man who is not guided by somebody. At first he has great fervor about fasting, keeping vigil, keeping silence. It's like the seed that falls on a rock, parallel to the soil. A little bit like Saint Peter. There's great fervor, and then it collapses. Then after a short time the fire is extinguished, and not having anybody to guide him or strengthen him, the fire again shrivels up, and so becoming disobedient falls. To fall off the tree for him is to become disobedient. Another one from Proverbs is safety in much counseling. When it says much counseling, it doesn't mean taking counsel from everybody. It's clearly from someone in whom he has full confidence. But he'll go on later to say that even if you don't have full confidence in somebody,


you can go to them just the same. It's like Cassian. Abba Pinucchios in Cassian said, Well, don't take everybody as your guide. You have to pick out one person. But then even if that person is not perfect, Dorotheus says later on, If you sincerely want the truth, want the light, God would unlike my little child to give it to you. But if you're not sincere, then even the prophets will be deceived, and you won't get anything worthwhile from them. He says that at the end of his discourse. He shouldn't be silent about some things and speak about others. But he should report everything and take counsel about everything. This is very tricky because there are two levels here. One, we can either not say some things and we know it, we're holding him back, because he just isn't going to understand as he is, and we won't understand this. And sometimes, however, we do it without knowing it. Now that's the trickier thing. Because we can only reveal what we're conscious of. You see, we can't reveal our unconscious or even our preconscious. So if we're locked into this small mind,


this particular limited consciousness, how are we really going to say the things that count? How are we really going to say the things that matter? We don't know them. The best we can do is to tell what we know, is to open our heart as deeply as we can, see into it and be conscious of it, and then let the other person look further if you can. The main thing is the disposition of openness, the willingness to go as deeply as possible, which means that the basis of it is trust. If we don't trust the person we're talking to, then we simply can't do it. If a man does not bring to light everything about himself, especially if he has turned away from evil habits in a bad... Now here's something. If he's turned away from evil habits in a bad opening, what's different about that? He seems to say that a person who has had a sinful life before has a special need for this kind of thing. Other people maybe have a kind of innate innocence in them. But the person who has spent a good deal of time sinning,


who has been cut off from God, he's got a corner there somewhere, he's got a space in there of self and of self-will, which is a kind of vacant room just waiting for the enemy. It's hard to know exactly. There's a kind of a subtle psychological insight there. I think it has to do with a memory too. You'll notice later when he tells that story about Macarius, here comes the devil with his little bottles and all these things. He says, I'm going to rouse up the memories of the brethren. And a lot of this depends on what we've got in our memory. The kinds of temptations we're going to have, the kinds of evil thoughts we're going to have depend on our previous life and depend on our memories. And if there's a corner in there of memory which hasn't been opened, not as he talks about the healing of the mind, perhaps if those memories haven't been healed, then there's always going to be a kind of festering locus of temptation, of potential temptation. I don't suppose that means that the person has to confess absolutely everything in his life, concretely and in great detail.


But it means that he's got to have, at least have potential opinions. And he's got really to be able to talk about his thoughts that come into his mind. If the devil finds in him one bit of self-will or self-righteousness, he'll cast him down through that. God's ears are really sharp. The devil is not so dumb. When he sees that a person has turned away from sin, he's not going to confront him with, you know, why don't you go and assassinate the president and get him to put your name in the newspapers? He's not going to ask you to do that. Or why don't you go out and steal or fornicate? But no, you'll find something that's acceptable. You'll find something, in fact, that looks good. You'll get him on the side of virtue, on the right side rather than the left side. He may try the other thing later, but there's not time for that yet. He has to build up to it with little things. And so you'll, first of all, try some things. Well, it might be just a grain of self-will or self-righteousness. The word that he uses for self-will there is just thelema, which is just will.


Evidently, among the Fathers it meant self-will. The one that he uses for self-righteousness is dikayama. It's only one word, dikayama, which means justice. It means your own justice. It's funny that both of these, for the Fathers, they don't have the word self stuck to them with a hyphen the way he did. It was just thelema and dikayama, will and justice. It comes from the same root. And I don't know if they use dikayama in a positive sense or not. If you want to find out, you can look it up in that big Greek patristic dictionary of lamps, another big blue book over there. He would tell you, but I haven't gone into it deeply enough to know that. Often they use dikayasune for justice. Maybe just dikaya. That's why I'm not sure. So this is the window for the devil,


this little space of self-will and self-righteousness, whatever it may be. And the two of them, when they get together, are especially pernicious. Through that, with the appearance of well-doing, the other fellow translates it, with good reasons. With very good reasons. That's the thing, it's all very rational. Whatever it is that leads us. Once again it said, a bad man does evil when he mixes it with righteousness. Actually what it says is that the bad man does evil when he mixes in righteousness. Mixes in righteousness. The bad man is the devil, and he does evil when he mixes it with righteousness. That is our self-righteousness. For when we are masters of our own affairs and we stand in our own righteousness, as if we were doing great things, we're giving ourselves counsel, and we do not know how it is we were destroyed. For how can we know the will of God,


as He could completely, if we believe only in ourselves and hold on to our own will? For this reason, Abba Pullman used to say that the will is a brass wall standing between God and man. That idea of the brass wall is a good image. I've never seen a brass wall. You might see one in an art exhibit at a museum. But a brass wall. Brass is a metal which is, what would you call it, is bouncing off. It's a wall of repugnance. A wall of brittleness. Which things would bounce off with a clang. Not just a wall. Something that repels. It repels God in some way. Just take a look at the force of this saying. He writes the image too. It's a rock jutting out as if going to meet and push back the will of God. If a man leaves it, he can say, In my God I have leaped over the wall.


My God, blame us in His way. He quotes this psalm. Then he rejoices here. He says how marvelously he speaks. When a man gives up his own will, he sees at once that the way of the Lord has no blemish or obstruction. When a man has a fondness for his own will, he doesn't see that. You see what happens? As long as we're attached to our own will, he says, the will of God seems perverse. The will of God seems harsh. The will of God seems like a stone instead of bread. But when we turn away from our own will, then we see that the will of God is blameless. The thing that's keeping us from seeing the will of God as it is, or from seeing God as a father, is our own will. There's a lot of problem nowadays with people being able to think of God even as being not only a father, but just being decent. It's a question of projection, in terms of today's psychologists, of projecting the hardness of our own will, of our own heart, upon God, so that we merely make him a reflection of what's inside of us,


and have said nothing between us but fear, and a kind of dislike. And if he's cautioned about this, he's angry and contentious, sparks fly from the wall. Then the elder says about self-righteousness, that self-righteousness combines with self-will, dikayama, and philemon. Translation here is not so hard. That is genuinely a death, that joining of self-righteousness with self-will. The marriage of self-righteousness with self-will, he says, is a death. Why? What does he mean by that? It's the death of the light. You see, the self-righteousness closes in the consciousness around the self-will, so that there's no escape anymore. It closes the door. Because not only do we say, we say, I want that, but we say, I'm right.


There's nothing wrong with that. We rationalize it and close the door. St. Bernard gets to the same thing in his Steps of Pride, where he gets from the one of doing what you want to do, to the one of self-justification. So when the mind sort of marries the will, the self-will, in this self-righteousness, this dukaya he's talking about, then it's closed. Then we're locked in. I think they occupy the same place, you know. On some level, they're the same thing. Just like the will and the intellect, on some level, are identical. They're one thing. They come from the same root. And then he goes explaining the great danger of being too great with fear. Then the wretched man falls completely.


He hasn't got the sometimes. Who can persuade such a man that another man can see better than himself? He should be looking for his own will and his own right. So he always gets the devil into the act here when he's talking about the self-will. The evil one does evil when he mixes in justice. He evades a whisper of caution. That quotation is from Proverbs 11, 15. But this is one of the many cases in which you find it doesn't square with your own translation. And the reason is because it comes from the Septuagint. Remember, Dorotheus is writing in Greek and he's using the Greek Old Testament. And the Greek Old Testament often translated things. I don't know how they got to those translations. In a way which is very different. You wouldn't even recognize it. I didn't recognize it when I was speaking. He evades a whisper of caution.


Now, the caution here means opening something up and discussing it. Not just doing it. Not just following the impulse. The very sound and mere echo of such discourse the devil hates and frees away from. Because the devil knows that his malice is brought to light through this inquiry and discussion about the advantage of doing a thing. As soon as... As a matter of fact, as soon as we put a thing in question we've begun to loosen up that lock, that marriage of righteousness and the will. Or just the thing of the entrapment of self-will. As soon as we begin to question it we give ourselves a little freedom to move around it. As soon as our mind starts asking is this the best thing? Is this right? We've loosened the lock. Of course, we can never tighten up again. But that's the first thing. And then we open that questioning up to somebody else and we say, well, is this really what I ought to do? Is this really the best thing? Then we've really opened it up. And we've let in something from outside that can pry it out of place. Can pry the door open and populate it.


There's nothing he hates and fears so much as to be known. Cash-in is full of this in a conference on discretion. If a man would safeguard his soul he will do so by laying bare all his secret thoughts and hearing from an experienced director, do this, avoid that. This is right, the other is not. This is virtue, that is self-will. Or again he hears, it is not the right time for doing this. But now it is the right time. So that's the principle, which is very simple. In fact, it's so simple it's the reason why it turns us off to be childlike in that manner. Now, we're not always going to be asking about everything. But what we have a tendency to do, of course, is to ask about the little things and just do the bigger things, the things that are more important to us. In other words, we reveal down to a certain level but when it really gets close to the bone, close to the heart, we keep quiet about those things. That's our tendency. However, it should be the other way. We don't need to consult somebody about the little things. At least not for a while, as long as they're really little. But the things that are really a factor in our hearts,


the things that are really of deep concern to us and which are deep in the emotional stream of our lives, with which we're deeply involved, those are the things we should ask about. And it's hard to do that. We can conceal what's going on in our hearts even from ourselves. And as I say, sometimes we don't even know it. But somebody's got to have the liberty to dig in there, to take a shovel and dig in, even if we haven't done it, and try to find what's in there. Because otherwise we can go out on a grave line and waste a lot of time. Even if we don't have these disastrous falls that the Fathers are always talking about, find ourselves headlong down a deep well. That's Cassian's story. The Devil does not want this and hates it. What he wants to do is evil, and he rejoices the more of those who do not accept direction. Why? Because they fall out of reach. Okay, then he goes on with his story. But the story is better in the original than the sayings of the Desert Father. It's Macarius, number 3, on page 107.


I won't read the whole thing because it's very long. When Abba Macarius dwelt in the great desert, he was the only one living as an anchorite. But lower down there was another desert where several brothers dwelt together. The old man was surveying the road, he was looking out on the road, and he saw Satan drawing near in the likeness of a man, and he passed by his dwelling. This is the kind of thing that artists just rejoice in painting after painting. He seemed to be wearing some kind of cotton garment full of holes, and a small flask hung at each hole. Apparently this stuff drains out of the devil into the little bottles. He's like an evil soft drink machine. And the old man said to him, Where are you off to? And he said, I'm going to stir up the memories of the brothers. He's going to stir up their memories. He's going to stir up the images, the fantasies in their minds. The old man said, And what is the purpose of these small flasks? And he replied, I'm taking food for the brethren to taste. The old man said, All those kinds? He replied, Yes,


for if a brother does not like one sort of food, I offer him another. If he doesn't like the second, I offer him the third. So he's got a whole selection. And the old man watches, and he sees him coming back again. The old man, he says, Good health to you. You've done good terms with the old stinker. The other replied, How can I be in good health? Because they all oppose me, and no one receives me. They wouldn't take any of these things. All except one. I have a monk who is a friend down there. He at least obeys me, and when he sees me, he changes like the wind. And the old man asked him the name of the monk. Theopemptus, he replies. Theopemptus means moved by God. This is strange. I never noticed that before. Theopemptus. With these words he went away. So Macarius went down and searched out Theopemptus. When he found where he was, he went to his cell. But Theopemptus was even with joy. Now the old man starts working on him. He says, How are you getting on? Thanks to your prayers,


all goes well. Don't your thoughts war against you? You've lied up to now. I'm okay. He was afraid to admit anything. Then the old man said to him, See how many years I have lived as an ascetic, and I'm praised by everybody. And now I'm old. The spirit of fornication troubles me. He starts to tell him about his own evil thoughts. And they're the same old evil thoughts. They're related. And Theopemptus said, Believe me, Albert, it's the same old evil thoughts. He's pointing at somebody he's never admitted before. The old man went on admitting that other thoughts still warred against him until he had brought him to admit them about himself. So he shared his own weaknesses, even though they may have been only little thoughts by that time. And thus he got the brother to open up. He opened his own heart. Even though he was being crafty all the time. Then he said, How do you fast? And he said to him, Practice fasting a little later, a little more. Meditate on the gospel and on the other scriptures. And if an alien thought arises within you, never look at it, but always look upwards and the Lord will come at once to your help. The medicine that he gives him


is the word. He gives him the medicine of the scriptures. It's not just so he'll know what to do. It's because that's what replaces these lousy thoughts. That's what replaces the images. So we need something for our imagination. We need something for our mind. We need something for our heart, for our emotions. And it comes from the word. That's the tradition of the mind. Meditate on the gospel and the other scriptures. And if a thought arises within you, never look at it, but always look upwards. And if you've meditated on the scriptures, then you have something to look upwards to, because you have the image of Christ. You have the image now. The words and the ideas, the notions of God and of the saints. And the Lord will come at once to your help. So then the man went back to his stuff. And he finds the devil coming down the road again. Where are you going? To rouse the memories of the brothers. And he sees them coming back again. How are the brothers? They've gone badly. The old man asked him why. He replied, they're all obdurate. And the worst is the one friend I had who used to obey me. I don't know what has changed him. But not only does he not obey me anymore,


but he's become the most obdurate of them all. So I'm not going back anymore. And so he went away and the saint returned to his stuff. It's a marvelous story because of the tenderness of the old man and the way that he knows to heal. To heal our way. And he does it by first bringing it to light. And then what does he put in? He changes the fellow's fasting a little bit. He changes his way of life just a little bit. But not enormously much. And then he tells him to think of the word of God and just to turn. Turn from those thoughts to the word. But the word wasn't enough. He had to have the old man come. He had to open his heart to him. And he healed him. The devil couldn't get in anymore. He spoke the word of God to him and guided him back to the right way. Because the word of God has a property which is beyond what we understand about it. That's the thing. It's food. It's not just that it tells you what to do.


It's not you understand something and then you go and you think about that and you work it all out rationally. No, it's much more simple and much more physical than that. The word of God has a physical effect on us. Now you understand why the enemy hates anyone and takes the precaution of revealing his secret thoughts. Because he wants to destroy us. Remember the thing of Saint Benedict. Dash them down upon the rock Christ and then reveal it to your spiritual father. Actually, it's the same formula. The rock Christ is the word of God. It's the word of God. Remember the rock in Saint Peter which is really a word, a gospel. It's the same thing. It's that opening towards God. The word that's in you. Look towards it. Look away from the temptation. Look away from the fantasy. Look towards it. And then open it up to somebody else. Open it up to your spiritual father. Those two. You've got the sacrament of the word and you've got the sacrament of the human being. The person. And you've got the spirit within you.


The love of those who stake out their own paths because they work together with the devil. They themselves raise cash for themselves. I know of no fall that happens to a monk that does not come from cursing his own judgment. That's an amazingly absolute statement. Some say a man falls because of this or because of that. But I say and I repeat, I do not know of any fall that happens to a monk except from this fall. And he tells a couple of stories about himself. The first is about Abba John and how he used to feel, why should I go and trouble the old man? And he'll just tell me the same thing and I'm already thinking. But no, he did go and trouble the old man because he didn't trust his own thoughts and he knows that he was right to do that. And I used to say to my thoughts, yes, but now it is right to do this after the old man said okay. Now it comes from the Holy Spirit. What is purely your own is bad. It's from the devil, from the state of your emotions. Remember St. Benedict on that chapter, on Lent, chapter 49, where he says at the end, let everything be done on the blessing of the spiritual father.


What is not shall be chopped up to a presumption and gain no reward. He's saying the same kind of thing. Which may sound like it's a kind of nasty, stingy, controlling kind of authoritarianism. But what it really is is the same principle, the same tradition. Openness and simplicity to another person, which is the sacrament of our openness and simplicity to the father, and therefore of our union with the father. And so I never allowed my thoughts to persuade me without consulting someone else. Now there are situations in which a person can't do this. For instance, out in the world somewhere on a trip or something like that. It's the readiness in the heart to do it and then the doing of it when the chance comes. Believe me brothers, I was in a complete state of rest and freedom from care. Now he, where did he talk about this? In the earlier discourse on renunciation back on page 91. At one time, before I knew the power of this virtue,


that is humility, fearing that through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of heaven, I became afraid because I had no troubles. When such thoughts came upon me, I used to take up a pen and write to one of the ancients. And remember the answer that he got. Do not be afraid, you have no cause to be. For everyone who throws himself completely into obedience to the fathers shall surely possess this state of freedom from care and peacefulness of soul. If you read Louf on this subject, when he talks about the spiritual father thing, he talks about it in terms of transmission of the word of God and so on. Now there's a thing here, I'd like to get it back and get it inside the word of God. But if we're talking about tradition, the tradition we're really talking about is the tradition of the word. And there's a kind of a two-way communication here. The word that comes from the heart of the individual, the opening of the heart, which reveals his own thoughts. Now that may not seem to be a very good word because the thoughts may be kind of unpleasant ones, kind of squalid ones. But nevertheless, that's part of this communication. And that opens the heart.


And in return for that, there's this other word, which somehow, even if it may not be seemingly very wise or very deep, is the sacrament of the word of God. And so the essential tradition is the tradition of the word of God. Even though it passes to another person, even though it may seem to be deluded, it may seem much less powerful. Yet in that way, we put ourselves within that tradition, the really big stream of tradition in the monastic product. I don't know if I've got that across. There's a thing about it. It brings everything together. Be careful to make inquiries, brothers, and do not set yourselves up as your own judges. Learn by experience how much freedom...