January 28th, 1982, Serial No. 00684

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Monastic Spirituality Set 5 of 12

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Unless somebody has something to say about that discourse on humility, we'll proceed with the next one, on conscience. First of all, how Dorotheus treats his subject. This is a short discourse for him. First of all, he talks about what conscience is, its source, its nature, and its function, its operation, what it's supposed to do. And we have to watch it with our vocabulary here, because, in fact, I didn't look up the original to see what word he's using for conscience, I didn't think of that. It's probably synetesis, it's generally the Greek term for it. I'll have to check that, though, because there's another word which is very much like it. There's this confusion between two Greek words, synetesis and synteresis. Synteresis, I don't know if I'm pronouncing it right. But one means knowledge, and the other one actually means, it says, the holding of something,


the conserving of something. And strangely, this other notion of spark comes in there, which I'll speak about afterwards. Then he talks about the need to listen to conscience, and that's his thrust through the whole thing. It's a kind of, like a preachment, a sermon to the monk to listen to his conscience. It sounds like the prophets. Listen to the interior voice, even in little things. Then the consequences of not listening, this business of building up evil habits. Then the three dimensions of conscience, towards God, towards one's brother, towards oneself. And then finally, a last admonition to beware and listen to your conscience. The tone of it is very much like Saint Benedict in the sense, you know, look out, a kind of warning tone very often. Let's take a look at his discourse and then look back at the subject in the light of some other points of view. As very often we find the fathers are talking about one side of the thing, and if you want


to catch the other side of it, you have to go somewhere else, either to another discourse of Dorotheus or to another source, another writer, because he isn't going to tell you the whole thing. It's this rhetorical method that's used. When God created man, he breathed into him something divine, as it were a hot and bright spark added to reason. That's a surprise to find that abrupt landing in Genesis 1. Remember, God breathed into man, and man became a living soul, formed him from clay. That's one of the two accounts of the creation. Genesis 2, the second account of creation. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. Now, of course, there's a whole biblical theology there of the spirit and God's breathing


his spirit into man, and man somehow becoming a living soul. And even the words, both ruach and nephesh and heber are related to breath, related to air, wind, spirit. There's a subtle distinction between the two in the Old Testament. You don't usually find this notion of the spark of conscience being planted in a person through that creation. That's his adaptation. Usually we think of man receiving his own life, as it were, the breath of life, life as breath, through the induction, as it were, by God's spirit, whatever you want to call it. And as if God had planted something into man that's either an image of himself or, in some way, a part of himself. And how you look at it depends on your philosophy, I guess. Christians are always very cautious about saying that there's something really divine


in man, that there's something divine created in man, because it smacks of pantheism. But it crops up here and again. And even in people like Martin, talking about his poem Virgen, he says that's in everybody, and it's also divine in some ways, the glory of God in us, right in the creation, aside from baptism and so on. So it's a little like, it's this spark of divinity, which is not a Christian notion, it's a pre-Christian notion. You find it where Neoplatonism, or something planted in man. Now, Dorotheus is identifying that with the conscience, which is a distinctly, what would you call it, Christian, distinctly moral application. You can follow it in different ways, and most people follow it in the mystical direction, this spark of divinity that's in us. He follows it in the moral direction, and that's typical of his kind of spirituality. The spirituality of obedience, the spirituality of moral conformity, in a sense, but conformity


from the heart. It's a moral kind of monasticism. And Asier writes about this currency of the Eastern spirituality, this is the moral currency. And yet, there's a mysticism, if you follow it into Bartholomew Fuchs. This is the cenobitical phase or stage of it, as it were, and he's putting the emphasis on life, and on, that is, how one behaves. Okay, this spark added to reason is called the conscience, which is the law of his nature. We tend to think of the law of nature as something else, the laws of nature, natural, physical, biological. But this law of nature, he means a moral law, which is in our nature. So you're taking that notion of law in a larger sense. If anybody's concerned with that notion of spark, or synteresis, or synderesis, there's


a better book here which gives a history at great length of the notion and confusion between the words themselves. There's a place in Saint Jerome's commentary on Ezekiel, of all places, where he talks about the four beasts, you know, and the look of Ezekiel, the four animals, and one had the face of a man, and one of a lion, and one of an ox, and one of an eagle. So the ego he identifies with conscience here. And this word synteresis comes in, in the notion of a spark, although there's a confusion in the manuscript, and I'm not even sure that Saint Jerome said it. It's an incredible confusion of history, and so they don't know whether that word is really supposed to be there or not, that notion of spark. It comes out in a later gloss. The fourth psychological power that they see above and beyond the three others is called synderesis by the Greeks, or synteresis.


It is the spark of conscience that was not extinguished even in King. It is properly illustrated by the ego, who does not mingle with the other animals and can pounce down upon them. It is the spirit that speaks for God and is through indescribable warnings. So it's not even sure that this is that gloss, this gloss ordinaria, later in the Middle Ages. They're not even sure that it was really in Saint Jerome, much less in Ezekiel. But it comes out sort of instinctively, this emergence of an archetype, the archetype of some kind of divine spark that's in us, which is somehow related with the Holy Spirit, especially the spark quality, the fire quality of it, and its luminous quality. And yet it's a point, it's like the mustard seed. But it speaks to us of what we are today. It directs us in some way. And the ego, these metaphors for the spirit, that book is Delhaie, The Christian Conscience,


a very long treatise on conscience, all kinds of aspects. Okay. His biblical allusions often are a lot of fun. Now he talks about Jacob's well. It is compared to the well which Jacob dug, as the fathers say, in which the Philistines filled up. The idea of a well being dug in nature, he says that the patriarchs, the first servants of God, obeyed that conscience. But then it was filled up by, as it were, the worldliness, or the context of sin, of man separated from God. And so then it has to be restored. And he says it's restored through the commandments, and then finally through the word incarnate, through Christ. If you remember before, in that first discourse, when he was sort of laying out his, the basis, the structure of his theology there, he told us that, how was it?


First of all, we were liberated in baptism. And then he says the liberation is completed by our doing the commandments. So you've got two levels there. Now here he puts another level underneath. It's the level of creation. And there's already a spark, as it were, of holiness in us by creation. There's a spark of God in us by creation, and then it takes the commandments to unearth it again. Whether you're talking about the well or you're talking about the spark, he's going to talk about burying, burying the spark or filling the well. Interesting. But it's a matter of the commandments, and then finally it's baptism in the Holy Spirit. I shouldn't say finally because really that's the second level, and then in the monastic life it's following up the commandments that somehow complete the job according to him. So you've got those three levels. There's trinitarian pattern again and again that crops up. Of the creation, of the word, commandments, and then finally the example of Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit which we receive in baptism.


And in each of these levels there is, as it were, a core or a handle given us for recovering a way towards the divinity, a way towards the fullness of our destiny, towards holiness. We needed the instruction of our Master Jesus Christ to reveal it and raise it up and bring it to life through the observance of the commandments. And of course he reduces the commandments into love. It's in our power either to bury it again or if we obey it, to allow it to shine and illuminate us. Remember the gospel this morning, the lampstand in the bushel. You can bury it or you can put it on a lampstand. When our conscience says to us, do this and we despise it and it speaks again, we do not do it but continue to despise it. Thus we bury it and it's no longer able to speak. And this is just psychological experience. We've all experienced this. There's a mystery of how when we don't do the light, the light is given to us not just to bask in it,


not just to send the light to do it. When we don't do it, it disappears after a while and something in us goes out and we wonder where we are, we wonder what happened. And we're capable of moving from light into darkness through not living in the light. So our whole world changes, our whole consciousness changes and we don't know why. We forget. So continually his discourse is very close to life here, it's very real. We're found unable to perceive what our conscience says to us so that we think we have hardly any conscience. And this is common in the world nowadays because it's so easy to get away from that center, that light. No one is without a conscience. Okay, so this is created in us. It's not just through baptism. It's not just through our Christian conversion. It always patiently reminds us of our duties.


And then he uses another Old Testament quote which surprises us and then a New Testament quote which seems to be right on, at least according to other fathers. The prophet bewails Ephraim. Who is it? It's Hosea. Ephraim prevails against his adversary and treads down judgment. Shame on you, Ephraim. The adversary here is conscience. And then he picks up that Gospel passage which really seems right on. Come to an agreement with your adversary while you're on the way with him lest he deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the warders, and they put you in chains. Now usually we think of the adversary as being, you can think of it being the devil, you can think of it being a neighbor, you can think of it being God, but you can think of it being the conscience here. Okay, take your pick. And he opts for the conscience. And that's good because the adversary, the conscience, the interior voice is always with us while we're on the road. We have to come to peace with the interior adversary


and make it, as it were, our friend. Otherwise, we'll be subject, we'll be handed over. Because we had this voice, we had this light with us all the time, and we didn't hearken to it. So we'll be delivered over to the external judgment afterwards because we didn't listen to the internal judgment. So it's a good application. You shall not leave the place until you've paid the last prayer. It's called the adversary because it always opposes our evil desires and tells us what we ought to do and we do not. And as long as we think of it in that way, it sounds like somebody's mother-in-law, or it sounds like Freud's super-ego, the kind of disagreeable thing to carry around, until we begin to think of it in another way and realize that maybe it's the center of our being. Maybe it is that point here. Maybe it is the real divine spark that's in us. And it's not meant always to reprove us, but it's meant to become our light, too. It's meant to become the center of our life.


It's meant to fill us with delight. But before it can do that, we have to somehow become purified. It's like the fire that John of the Cross talks about that first makes the wood sputter while it's chasing out, boiling out the tar and the moisture. And then the wood burns softly and quietly and sweetly in the fire. Let us be zealous, brothers, to guard our conscience, for as long as we're in this world, not to neglect its promptings in anything. Let us not tread it underfoot, even in the least thing, for you can see that from the smallest things, which of their nature are worth little, we come to despise the great things. Now, here we're apt to run into a problem, because he says there's no such thing as a small thing. There's no such thing as a little thing. And we know that he's right, and yet at the same time, there's obviously a pitfall, isn't it? Because there are no little things when God's will is clear. And yet you can easily get into the position of having a scrupulous conscience,


so you're afraid to do anything. So you don't know whether to eat another bean or not, because it might be too much. All kinds of things. You can get into torments that way, and vacillate back and forth, and then you have to go and ask somebody else in order to get out of it. So there's such a thing as overdoing this kind of thing, working up too much tension, too much... I haven't got another word except scrupulosity, to be too meticulous about this thing. It's true that there are no little things, and yet there are little things. There are no little things in the sense that as soon as we know something is God's will, as soon as we're sure of that, there's no such thing as a little thing. As soon as we know what is right, when we're certain, there's no such thing as a little thing, right? On the other hand, there's a neutral ground, is there not, for human freedom. There's a space there where it's not, if I touch this, I'm damned, if I touch this, I'm saved. There's a middle ground somewhere in between.


Everything is not divine and demonic, but God has made us with a certain sphere of autonomy and of liberty, where also creativity is possible, where imagination is possible. Otherwise, we're in a terrible fix, if we're always moving between those two absolutes of the holy and the evil. So there is a space in between. We don't want to over-moralize our life. And, practically speaking, there are little things. There are things that are not worth bothering about. If I get anxious because I didn't put that postage stamp quite square on the letter, and therefore, who knows what, that's a mistake, that's a little thing. There are things that are too little to be concerned with. And we need the help of a spiritual director to get into that fix, if our conscience gets into that narrow track where we're becoming scrupulous. And scrupulosity is simply a neurotic fact, you know, it's a phenomenon. We'll talk about that at another time. But there's little things you have to be careful of.


Also, it can feed into a kind of spirituality of little things, which can, you know, get into the cowardly thing, too. The evasion and avoidance of life, and the avoidance of the actual challenges of life, by retiring into a kind of a superiority fortress, you know, of the holiness of little things. Because there's a true little way and there's a phony little way. St. Therese was on the true little way, with some of her followers, you know. And there are no little things. For when it is a question of bad habits, it's a question of a malignant ulcer. But if we're too afraid of acquiring bad habits, we'll be in torment all the time. We won't be able to do anything. We won't have any freedom. If everything were habit... Okay, here's a kind of thing. It's not as if everything is determined. In other words, if I do this, this over here on the right side, I'm getting into the track of the Holy Spirit. I'm led by the Holy Spirit and therefore that leads to salvation.


However, if I do this over here, I'm hooking myself into evil. I'm forming a bad habit and therefore I'm moving towards the side of evil. Okay? I'm caught in that. What's that to do? That's to put all of human life into a kind of determinism. Either determinism by God, right, by the Holy Spirit, by good, or determinism by evil. And there's no zone left for us to live our life in between. There's no real zone for our freedom except choosing between those two absolutes. But that's not so, is it? If we think about it, we realize it's not so. Sometimes when we're trying to live the monastic life very intensely, we can get into that feeling. And charismatics can get into it, you know? So there's no neutral zone. There's no either... It's all spiritual, you know? Either for better or for worse. It may be true in a certain phase of life, a certain context of life, but a lot of the time we have to allow ourselves the space of that third zone. Which is not to say that things in the third zone are indifferent. No, we make them good by making them good.


We transform them into good by our incarnating good, rather than our finding things already able to be able to need. But we make them good by living by the Holy Spirit, the grace that's in us. Okay. So he comes back to this passage from the Gospel about the adversary. It's Matthew. Matthew 5. In attending to our conscience, we need to consider many different factors. And then he talks about three dimensions. Conscience towards God, towards your neighbor, and towards material things. As regards God, it might surprise you that he's not really talking in general about direct defenses of God, as if, well, it's not just the duty to pray, for instance, or the duty to revere God, to obey God. No, it's the hidden things he's talking about. In other words, conscience towards God, for him, means the hidden things of the heart. When nobody else is looking. Somebody else might call that conscience towards yourself,


or in your own presence. But he's thinking of it as being under the eye of God, just as Saint Benedict talks about the presence of God, the first degree of humility. And that being the source of the basis of conscience for me. Because the eyes of God are on you at every moment. Evil thoughts. Suspicions. To put it simply, all the hidden things that happen inside us, things which no one sees except God in our conscience, we need to take account of. This is what I mean by our conscience towards God. So really, that's going to embrace all three dimensions. That's going to embrace everything. But then the others have a special thing in addition to that. Conscience towards our neighbor means anything that's going to hurt him. And here it's a question of sensitivity. Because we can say, well, that won't hurt him. I don't feel that that's harmful. Why should that bother anybody? But it may. It's not enough for us, therefore, just to say,


well, because it doesn't seem harmful to me, therefore, it's not going to hurt him. A kind of sensitivity, a kind of open-eyed awareness is necessary here. Otherwise, we do harm people. Remember how Father Zosima talks about how you have to be very careful when you're around a child because even the expression on your face can permanently, permanently monitor and somehow influence you. A good conscience in respect of material things. Here he talks about two things, really. Taking care of things. That is, a respect and a care for material things. And on the other side, a kind of indifference. So there are two things that seem to contradict one another. Respect for material things in that you don't waste them. He uses an example of this. Not to be slovenly about our clothes or not to do our washing too much. Usually it's the opposite. When one can wear a shirt a week or two, you want to wash it every day.


I don't think anybody around here has that particular style. It's more likely to be. More likely to be. But from what? Taking care of all kinds of things. Or wanting fancy things when you can do it more simply things. Or jealousy. Why has so-and-so got such a thing in her head? Such a man is not on the right road. He's got a kind of infallible instinct there. He gets a little off the subject sometimes. And he's got this instinct that such a man is not on the right road. That's his discernment. That's the wrong road. The wrong road is thoughts of jealousy. Whatever be the objective situation. Somebody may have really something that he shouldn't have. But what's that to you? Because actually your problem is your own conscience before God. And it's not what somebody else has. See, these comparative, competitive things are entirely beside the point. And they're always going to be there, those problems. But they're not our business, in a sense. That man is not on the right road, in a sense.


Because he's making those comparisons. His mind is in the wrong place. All this is against the conscience. The Fathers tell us that a monk ought not to give his conscience occasion to reproach him about anything at all. That's Agathon number 2. It's on page 17 in the Sermons of the Desert Fox. Therefore, it's necessary to watch ourselves all the time, even in the little things. Okay, that's the discourse. My remark, though, is that a monk ought not to give his conscience occasion to reproach him about anything at all. There's another one of those sayings which is on one side, okay? And if you have a scrupulous conscience, you can go crazy, you know, because of its impossibility to satisfy itself, to find peace.


You ought not to let your conscience reproach you. There's a time to give your conscience a sleeping pill. I'm joking. There's a time, if your conscience is oversensitive, where you have to say, that's enough. I don't listen anymore simply because I've done everything I can. And now I must have peace. I'm talking about an inaccurate conscience, an over-scrupulous, over-fine conscience, not a true conscience. And there's always going to be... Conscience is not something that automatically stops when it's had enough. There's always going to be that sense that we're not doing enough. Something like that. But there's a time where you have to be able to live with that tension without being able to run out and correct the situation, because that tension is going to be there. Are there any remarks or questions or anything before we go elsewhere on this subject? Or conscience? This is a big subject. It's the same image, but it's a whole different notion.


Notice how it's a whole different notion. The Shakti thing, rather, in Kundalini yoga. It's the spiritual power that's within the person. Yeah. Okay, that's true. There are those people who also have a change of mind, a spiritual insight. This here is not thought of as a power. It's a light, but it's not thought of as a power. It's a light, but then it's up to you to obey it. It's as if you had to do it under your own steam. Of course, that's only a partial notion, too. And part of the trouble is that it gets split off, so it becomes over-moralized. Even in Dorotheus you can see that kind of moralism there that makes us uncomfortable. That you better do this thing. Without the assurance of the help of the Holy Spirit, without the sense of grace or power there. On the other hand, in the Hindu thing, it tends to get too physical. It seems to be too materialistic in the spiritual materialism.


I found a few references on the subject of conscience, but I haven't had time really to look at them. It's just as well, because we can't say everything about everything. There are these books. One of them is a collection of articles. I don't think I said anything about these last time. One of them is a collection of articles on conscience. This one is a kind of survey of the whole thing. And it's kind of heavy. It's heavy and long and dull and thorough. The whole history of emotion. This one is just a collection of articles from various points of view, theological, psychological and so on, on the subject of conscience. And this one here is more systematic. He takes three contemporaries, remember, and tries to get to a theory. Erikson, L├ęger, Colbert, and Latour.


That's pretty up-to-date stuff. And then there's a very good article in the New Catholic Encyclopedia. Good old New Catholic Encyclopedia. That's probably it. I'm not close to him. Just to get the general notion of it. But first, a few notions that hook up with conscience. Sometimes it's good to think about these things and just say, conscience and, and then go down the list and see, and one, and two, and so on. Conscience and discernment. Because usually, you don't find a treatise on conscience in the Fathers. You find a treatise on discernment, also in the Desert Clusters. There's a book on the discernment of spirits. And actually, what he's talking about in conscience, as conscience, is the same matter, the same area that we treat under discernment,


discernment of spirits. But what's the difference there? You find a similar lack of a middle zone, usually, in the treatises on discernment of spirits. That is, it's either, it's either divine or evil, usually. Not much room in the middle. Or if there is room in the middle, it's not looked at very favorably. That is the human thing. It's caught up as well. It's only from us, the person with, the kind of pessimistic one. But he's thinking of conscience just as a thing that tells you what is right, tells you what is, as an instinct, right? It's in you. It's not a conscious act you have to make. You know it already. He's talking about what they call antecedent conscience. Something that's there already, telling you what's right and what's wrong. Like that teacher in the scripture. You'll hear your teacher behind you saying, turn the spirit to me. Like that. Whereas discernment may be a gift, but it's also something you have to develop.


Also something that you have to do. It may require reflection. The heart. If you look for a theology of conscience in the Bible, you run into the heart right away. That's the closest thing to it in the Old Testament. That's where, if you're looking for something in the human being, where this kind of decision, this kind of discernment is made, will be in the heart. But then the word conscience itself comes in in the New Testament. Especially in St. Paul. We say it's about 20 times in St. Paul, about 30 times in the New Testament. It's hardly at all in the Gospel. And there with a more specific meaning. Because in the heart you have everything. It's such a global term. Then that business of the point, the center, the fine point of the soul, the person, whatever. Here's where the term lights up for us. Because if we just take conscience as being a moral thing, that tells you what to do and tells you what not to do, that's not very satisfying. And if we think of it in that way,


we can take a whole compartment of our life and have a kind of moralistic department there, you know, of disagreeable obligations and things like that, until we hook it up to the center. So the problem is to hook conscience up to the center. And actually that's not very hard. Especially if we start out with what Dorothea starts out with, that notion of the spark. The notion of the person actually having a kind of center, a kind of divine light in it, which guides you not only towards doing what you have to do, but is already somehow the presence of the goal, or the presence of the principle, or the presence also of a kind of creative energy, like your shakti, a creative power, a source of the Holy Spirit, which not only helps you to find what you're supposed to do, but in some way gives you the energy,


the grace to execute it, and not just in itself, but relates it continually to the beginning and the end. If you think of it in relation to that kind of center, that kind of center of light and of energy, it makes more sense. And as the conscience, or the act, say the moral act, that word moral, it's a heavy one, because it murders with its touch, in a sense, as soon as we hear it, because it's gotten detached from the whole thing. All of these things get pulled away from their unity as we get down through history, and things get more and more complex, more and more fragmented, as we get into the modern time. And so it is with the whole area of the moral, and the whole area of conscience, in these things. But to consider it holistically and centrally as being the light, the voice, the spark, the knowledge, the instinct, whatever words are most useful to you, of that center of the person


which pulls everything together for us and helps us to relate to whatever is touching our periphery immediately from the center. So it makes a connection from the center of the switchboard, as it were, to the periphery immediately, and tells us in some kind of way what we're supposed to do to work out that connection in our life. So it would be like our connection with the center. You remember that passage from Merton that I read last time, when we were talking about humility, where he talks about that center and how you have to keep in touch with that. And that's your guide, actually, in what you do, is whether it interferes with your relation to that center, your consciousness of that center, or whether it's in correspondence with it. Whether what you're doing and how you're thinking in your whole life is in communication with that center


or not, okay? And that to me seems like the same thing Dorotheus is talking about, when he says you can bury the spark or you can put it on the lampstand. You can bury it in the ground by pulling your life out of correspondence with that center, with that luminous center in you, that spark, that center of your person, that point of view, whatever you want to call it, the center of the deep place of your heart. Or you can act in correspondence with that center at every moment. And here we're not talking just about individual things, as if you have a word from the Lord about each individual act. No. But your whole life has to be in correspondence with that, in such a way that you keep the channel open and there's even life feeding through the channel. And so there's a communication of life out from the center to the periphery and then back from the periphery to the center. There's also this notion of discernment of Rahner, Brutus, I'm always getting back to him, he talks about, in Saint Ignatius' exercises of all places,


a kind of spiritual experience which is the basis of discernment. It's an experience of peace and, as he calls it, a consolation without any cause. Which means that there's nothing outside that happens, but you just feel something in the presence of God or you feel a certain peace, a certain centeredness, you can put it that way, a certain openness towards God. Now the key to that for him is that there's this opening. It's like the openness so that you've got a clear channel from your mind, from your consciousness, to God, or to the center. For him it's this thing, his whole epistemology, this whole thing about transcendence. Your transcendence is open to God. It's not clouded, it's not covered over. And that, for him, is the basis of discernment. And it's the same thing that Merton is talking about and the same thing that Dorotheus is talking about. But Merton talks about it in terms of being in relation to the center, keeping that living communication open. Dorotheus talks about it in terms of not bearing the spark. We know somehow


when we're in touch with the center because we're free and because our freedom, first of all, is in that direction of transcendence towards the center where God is, in the center of our soul, where God is present in our hearts. And we know that simply by the feeling of openness and freedom, the feeling of being able to breathe, and breathe, first of all, in prayer, okay? But when the other thing happens, when we go against it, then we put a block in there of some kind. The thing gets clouded. Not only don't we know, we don't have the light coming from that place, we're living from somewhere else. We don't know, but we also can't move. First of all, we can't move towards God in prayer. We don't have that freedom of our transcendence towards him, towards the center and towards him. It's like the sky is crowded over. And secondly, we can't move in any other direction with real freedom. We don't have the freedom for the total flow of life in us, which means we don't have any joy. And probably we don't have the rest of the fruits of the Holy Spirit to send forth to us. Because it's as if what we're talking about is the flow of the Holy Spirit in our organism,


in our system. And when we block that out, when we cloud that over, we don't have any more. But see how the conscience is not just an isolated thing. What we're talking about is the center, really. We're talking about our relation with that center. But you have to look at history to see how this whole thing sort of gets lost, gets fragmented. And you get into a casuistry. The fellow in the article in the Encyclopedia is pretty good about all that. About how, in the course of history, you can get into the Pharisaic thing, or the casuistic thing, where you're judging conscience just in terms of an external law. And then what happens? People break away from that and revolt. And they get a purely subjective conscience. You see? So the thing splits into this paradoxical thing that some people are insisting on a conscience which is totally conformed to an external order, the law of God or the law of church or whatever you want to call it. And other people revolt against that in terms of a purely individualistic,


subjective, interior conscience, which doesn't have any external criterion at all. So the, what do you call it, situation ethics is an ambiguous word, because it means both validly an ethics, a way of living and of determining your life, which is in contact with the situation at every moment. And that's beautiful. We have to have that. Or it can mean an ethics and a morality which has no relation, which has no objective criterion in the sense of a law. There's no principle there. You just respond to the situation. A total existentialist thing of that kind, you see? So it's somewhere in between the two. There was a time when it was all together in a way. St. Thomas, we can talk about St. Thomas again here, because he was in the period where these things still hadn't flown apart. They still hadn't exploded and been fragmented. Let's see if we can catch any of that in the short resume


that he gives to St. Thomas. In spite of difficulties and dangers, the Western church and Western moral teaching ever remained true to the authentic spirit of the new law. That means the new law is the New Testament. It's the law of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas says that, too. He says that the new law is the Holy Spirit in you. It's Christ in you. It's an interior law. The old law is the exterior law. And that's beautiful. A typical example is that of St. Thomas who achieved a scientific synthesis of revealed moral teaching, changing it from a simple, direct, and indeed most efficacious moral catechesis. Now that's what you've got in Dorotheus, a direct moral catechesis. He says, look out, obey your conscience, listen to God, listen to the voice in your heart because that's the voice of God. But it's not analytical, and we can find fault with it at a certain point. It doesn't answer all our problems. Changing it from a simple, direct, and indeed most efficacious moral catechesis, typical is the monastic literature, to a moral science


and rigid analysis. And that sounds disagreeable at that moment, but we find that what he's doing is necessary, really. His most brilliant insight was to see in faith the synderesis, or intellect, noose of his predecessors, and in conscience the spontaneous or quasi-instinctive reaction or application of this attitude to the business of daily living. That's beautiful. That's typical of St. Thomas' capacity for synthesis. The thing is beginning to spread apart. It's beginning to differentiate itself, but he's still able to keep it together with his integrative power, with his synthetic power. I'll read that again. His most brilliant insight was to see in faith the synderesis, or intellect, noose of his predecessors. So the combination of the general philosophical thing of the intellect, the noose, the synderesis, as being a source of his moral guidance, and then faith as grafted right into that place, or rather the intellect as grafted into faith


in some way, so that the Christian thing is planted right in the natural thing. And that's the boundary line that runs right through St. Thomas. He succeeds in keeping it together. The thing about, you know, reason and faith, nature and the divine, nature and grace, St. Thomas has a way of holding it together still. And then afterwards he tends to play a part in this one way or another, or to be welded together in a form which is too rigid. Then he gives references. There are obvious differences in this matter between East and West Orthodoxy, but there's no question of opposition. It's rather a matter of emphasis, the one more social and communitary, the other more individualistic and personal. Anyway, we don't want to get into that. But then what happens after that? In the 16th century, the principles,


under the still powerful influence of nominalism, the principles of personal freedom and private judgment were being introduced as the guiding principles of moral living. The Church was faced with a completely new situation. A little later on. I'm just giving a couple of samples here without trying to keep the continuity of this, so you're not really capable of getting it all together from what I read. But it's useful to see how these things get lost, how the thread gets lost in history, you see, and how very often we haven't got it all back yet. The traditional notion of prudence and practical personal wisdom which plays such an important role in Pauline moral teaching, and those are in addition to conscience. Conscience isn't enough.


You've got to have something else. It was set aside almost completely and it's place taken by a legalistically and casuistically conditioned conscience put forward now as the ultimate and inviolable norm of moral living. Casuistic means that it attends only to individual cases and it's interested in getting you a precise answer, a yes or no, offer-on answer for an individual case. Is this sinful? It isn't. Or isn't it? Well, tell me so I can go and do it. The minimalistic business comes in there. If you're always preoccupied about whether something is sinful or not sinful, as happens usually in this casuistry, how much can you get away with? It tends to destroy the substance of Christianity after a while because there's no interior, there's no interior connection there anymore. You're not really interested in whether this pleases God and whether this is right and whether this is an expression of the human person and whether this is of Christian freedom. You're interested in whether you can do it or not and get away with it. So it becomes externalized in a destructive way. That's one thing that happens. And people go to confession


and they just give a list of sins, you know, and they say, well, is this a sin or not? If it's not a sin, then I don't have to worry about it. So they forget it. And all they're interested in after a while is that boundary line between sin and not sin. With an over-insistence on the juridical order of things, all sense and feeling are lost for the radical subordination of man's life and being to an objective and divine order of things. And at the same time... See, there's one objectivity which is the real divine order. That's what St. Thomas would be interested in. There's another objectivity which is the objectivity of law and of authority, of institution. There's a place for that but it's subordinate to the first. And at the same time, as a necessary consequence, the true meaning of real, personal, creative activity realized in the mystery of subjectivity and intersubjectivity... These are big words but he's really got something there. And the dynamism of knowledge and love was forgotten. He's got a whole bunch of things right in there.


But see that the act, the moral act, is a synthesis of knowledge and love, the synthesis of your subjectivity, as it were, and what's around you and the situation around you, intersubjectivity with other people, also with God. And the relation between the subjective and the objective, all of it somehow is brought together and your person is expressed creatively in this kind of act. So it's a thing that pulls everything together. But it tends to get fragmented very easily. It's very hard to keep a hold of those unities, to keep things together as they really are, as they are in reality. Because we conceptualize and we have to analyze in order to begin to understand them. And when we do that, we can't get them back together. We take things apart and we don't know how to get them back together. They're like children in that way. where they are. This reversal of values gave rise to a strange paradox. On the one side,


the ultimate rule of morality became something completely subjective. The all-important condition for good moral action was no longer correspondence with objective reality and the law of God, author of that reality, but rather the subjective good faith or good intention of the individual. Whether his moral judgment was objectively right or wrong, true or false. Provided the intention is good, whether the judgment is right or wrong, it is equally good as the intention. It doesn't matter what you do. It's completely subjectivized in the sense that the intention is all that matters and therefore, even if it does a lot of harm what you do, it's all right because your intention is all right. But that's a blindness. That's not complete. There's a training phase in which that kind of thing can be tolerated. That kind of thing is all right. There's a place in monastic discipline where that can get along. But there's not enough of the truth in it. It's not really in touch with reality sufficiently. There's been a lot of that in our Western tradition at one time or another.


The only thing that matters really is the right intention. And in the religious life it can be marginal. It can be destructive because it gets people completely out of touch with reality into a subjective zone, into a completely subjective, introspective zone. Besides it getting scrupulous at certain times to see whether their intention is really right. It gets away from simplicity. On the other hand, concrete human activity became completely mechanized and impersonalized through the mechanization of the judgment of conscience. Okay, thus all sense of the real meaning of creative activity which alone can contribute efficaciously to the fulfillment of human life and being is almost completely lost. On the level of the so-called spiritual life, a remedy for this state of affairs was sought on the development of a new theological discipline, ascetical and mystical theology. You have this in our seminaries for about the past,


I don't know how long, maybe for a century or more. But this is not very far back in the tradition. At one time it was all one. But moral theology was separated from ascetical and mystical theology. There's an artificial distinction. It's not in Christianity originally. It's not in the scriptures. A new theological discipline, ascetical and mystical theology, a higher type of moral teaching reserved for the chosen few, and which itself gets separated from the scriptures, gets separated from the basic Christian sources, the basic Christian knowledge. So we get into all sorts of problems with this fragmentation. The ascetical and mystical theology gets to be an elitist thing, and the moral theology gets to be externalized and unrelated to the mystical life, to the interior life, the life of the heart. So we usually get a kind of disaster. There was then, in the course of the 17th century, a strange shifting of perspective,


so that conscience came to mean something it had never meant in the whole of pagan or Christian tradition. One could perhaps put the difference in this way. Whereas the moral teaching of the whole Christian tradition up to the 17th century... I'm reading this because it's kind of brilliant. It's really a good historical analysis. Whereas the moral teaching of the whole Christian tradition up to the 17th century insisted on the inalienable right of objective truth and of the exigencies of the objective and divine order of things. The new moral teaching, based on a new and legalized notion of conscience, insisted either on security, tutuism, security. In other words, play it safe, don't take any chances, and therefore you can't be free and you can't be creative. You've just got to obey the law and make sure that you don't step over it. And that's all that matters. Keep inside the fence. Or on the freedom of the individual in the face of the law. Laxism and liberalism, really,


in every sense. And in this way, Christian moral teaching came to lose its true existential character. And then he talks about the reaction to that, and then he tries to make a systematic exposition. But you see what happens in history. And how even the word conscience, today, just like the word moral or morality, or so many of those words, or the word law of God, natural law, these things all have a disagreeable sound to us. Because they've been cut off from the center of light and power. And they've been sort of put in charge of separate sectors of life. And until we rediscover that source, that key, that core, it can't be real for us. But everything gets life when it's connected with the center. And so these terms are two of these sectors of life. They're like limbs, you know, of the body, which the circulations might cut off, and so they atrophy,


or they get gangrene, or something, and they have to be restored. Any questions or anything about this? This has been a very scattered treatment. I wanted to do it in one morning, and did a lot of other things. If we go back to Dorotheus, then what revisions, or questions, or integrations might we have to make, if we go back and make it the way that he treats conscience? Okay, she did.


What I mean, there isn't mention. I mean, there isn't... In the Old Testament, you don't very often find, I have to make one exception, the suggestion of a divine element, okay, in kind of queer terms. You do in the Book of Wisdom, okay? But there it's in terms of wisdom. Wisdom which somehow is not distinguished from the level of creation completely. But that's a most strong place. But it's not clear that that's really in the human being from creation. Well, you don't have to make that absolute distinction of natural and supernatural, which isn't in the Scriptures really. In the Old Testament, there's a separation between the divine and the human. I mean, God is up there, we're down here. And yet, there's a subtle suggestion of something crossing that gap now and then. And that account of creation is one of the strongest places. In one of the accounts, remember, it's the image and likeness of God


that he puts into man. And in the other, it's his breath, his breath itself. And so it's very easy there, biblically, to establish the presence of a divine element in the human being. But anyway, that indication of right and wrong that he had, certainly that's there. The only thing is, we don't have to call it a spark of God, okay? We don't have to call it a divine element on the basis of the Bible. And most of our theology in the West has been very cautious in that respect to avoid the accusation of pantheism in us. We never talk about that kind of thing anymore. Actually, St. Thomas is pretty audacious in that respect, in other places in his writings. They would always talk about it as a created thing, not something divine. The distinction between the uncreated and the created is kept very cautiously inviolable in Western theology mostly. And they used to in their moral freedom. And then, today,


theologians begin to come around and integrate once again the created with the divine. It is, indeed, you know. Because the word God, then the exegetes will get you and they'll say, well, what did that word really mean at that time? Oh, you know, Jesus' village. We don't have any... We don't have his village newspapers, so we don't know. So there isn't much of it really. But yes, God is continually subtly saying that, you see, in the Scriptures. But man is cautious, especially in the Jewish tradition, because the Jewish tradition, in its insistence on the transcendence of God, it's heretical, you know. It's anathema to suggest that there's something divine in the human being, OK? That separation


is insistent. And then, the Christian reality bridges the gap through the Holy Spirit. It's as if you have to make the separation in order to bridge it properly and get the glory. The things that, looking back at our atheists, that we seem to have to find a place for, one thing is freedom. One thing is freedom. And another thing is discretion. There's the other side of the picture there. It can't be just that thing that's telling you, you've got to do that. There must be another side of it. And then there must be another side to that spark than just the moral, the moral word, the moral guidance. That spark is, if it's really God, if it's really the Spirit of God, there's another face to it. There is, as it were, a positive face to it as well. And then there's a relation to the grace and the energy to actually do the thing. And then there's all the incorporation and the other elements, that creative aspect of the


act. It pulls everything together. As it pulls everything together around the activated center of the person, and then it through a process of integration with the spiritual center of the person. It's a process of integration with the spirit center of the And then goes through the process Maybe he just decided to separate it, because he's got a later discourse there on consultation, on spiritual direction, so he must have just segmented it, and this was a very brief word, shorter than most of his discourses.


Could be, it could be. We don't know very much about the context, nothing about the context of the individual discourse. It's just that, you know, not being empowered, or really an active will, any being of light consciousness is not considered directed towards the process of direction, in terms of directing the will of consciousness towards a specific path. With ten separators, more of an understanding as a light that's shown, as a light that we get, an active will. Yeah, that's right. I think so, and that's a long process.


A long process, I think, a long process of experience and of sometimes painful discernment in our own life, and making mistakes and finding out that what we thought was following the inner light was really our fear or something else, was really coming from somewhere else. Yes, and the proof, the criterion, ultimately, would have to be in the fruits. Whether the fruits are the fruits of repression, which are bad, sour, bitter fruits, precisely bitter fruits, the fruits of repression, you know? The souring of the repressed tendency, whatever it is. Or whether they're the good fruits of the spirit, joy and love and peace and those things. And freedom. Freedom, it's as if freedom is the one fruit of the spirit that Saint Paul doesn't talk about, but it's all of the fruits. It's as if, and in that letter to the Galatians, that's what he's talking about, is freedom. And then he breaks it down into those different fruits, but they all sort of come back together in freedom. Whether it's an expanding movement or whether it's a contracting movement.


So you're telling me that it's the souring of the unconscious and breaking it down into what I perceive to be good and what I perceive to be bad? I have to be able to relativize my own consciousness at any moment, and that means you know it. If there's something outside of my mind and my perception, I can do that. And practically speaking, somebody else has to be in the picture for us to do that. We have to have somebody, an external point of reference. Okay, let's... Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. And to the Holy Spirit, it's time to shun the world as I am.