March 3rd, 1982, Serial No. 01011

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Monastic Spirituality, Set 6 of 12




location, which we've almost got to the end of.
We've got to the middle of page 127.
Next time we can go on with that one on refusal to judge our neighbor, which you find a lot of background for in the sayings of the fathers.
There's a whole section of the sayings of the fathers in that circuit.
Also there's a book of
which would be opportune at that time.
I may have to get that one to prepare for that.
And if the other copies come in, then we can use them.
That's exactly what he's talking about.
Because there are two sides to that story.
On the one hand, we're not supposed to judge our brother.
On the other hand, obviously we have to.
Because obviously we're living together.
We even have the duty of fraternal correction.
So how do we navigate between those two extremes?
So that'll be for next time.
Now, this business of consultation, just to go back for a moment before we finish this discourse.
You remember what he's talking about.
He's talking about consulting the elders.
Consultation is an odd term.
So that's not his title anyway, is it?
What was it?
That it's not good to... It's your own will, basically, but it's also your own counsel.
It's not good to follow your own counsel solely.
And of course he's not talking about just consoling anybody, he's talking about consoling the elders.
That it's not good to follow your own judgment, that's the title of the discourse.
And as we go on with these discourses, these conferences of Dorotheus, we see he's sort of always talking about the same thing, but he's circling around it.
And we hardly know what name to put on that same thing.
But it's the movement from one condition to another condition.
In a sense, from one place to another place.
Okay, his principle, which sounds so extreme, is this.
I know of no fault that happens to a monk that does not come from trusting his own judgment.
A philosopher could say, well, that's a tautology, because how can you make a mistake if you don't take any initiative, right?
How can you fall if you don't take any chances?
How can you sin if you never follow your own judgment?
If you never make a decision, in other words, how can you make a mistake?
To be criticized from that point of view.
Which, of course, is unfair, but yet there's a point there, which we have to talk about afterwards.
Does this principle cover the whole of human life, or the whole of the life of a monk?
Or is there something else involved?
We know there is, but it's hard to put a finger on it to express it.
So, okay, let's go on with his thinking.
And then you remember his own experience.
Everyone who puts himself under obedience to the fathers has this peace and freedom from anxiety.
And then the cynic comes up, the voice from the back comes up and says, freedom from anxiety.
Yeah, but what kind of freedom is that if it's in a bottle?
That is if he's freed himself from anxiety by setting aside his humanity, setting aside his freedom, and so on.
So we have to contend with that.
Now this is a fact that he's talking about.
It's a truth that he's talking about.
But there's another angle from which we really have to come to terms with today.
We'll get back to that afterwards.
Often for the monk who has a strong vocation, there's no problem at all with this.
There's no problem at all with it.
The problem can come up years afterwards.
But the grace of the vocation itself sets all those matters and those possible criticisms aside.
So the person just gives himself totally and expects, like a child, to receive the word of God and the will of God from his elder.
And that's right.
It's right for him to do that.
Be careful to make inquiries, brothers, and do not set yourself up as your own judges.
Notice, I didn't think of it before, but notice the correspondence between this thing.
There's a real structure in this thing of Dorotheus, even the way they're put together.
I don't know whether he had them in this order.
But this is not following your own judgment.
And the next one is the refusal to judge your brother.
I didn't notice that before.
And on the conference we had just before this one, it was that matter of parousia.
The self-confidence, which really
is based on an implicit self-judgment, on a kind of implicit espousal, unhesitating confidence in one's own judgment.
So you see how all of these things compare.
Learn by experience how much freedom from anxiety, how much joy, how much peace this brings.
Now, there's one thing to be free from anxiety, not by separating yourself from problems.
It's another thing to be
free from anxiety in the presence, in the face of problems and severe conflicts.
And it's another thing to be free from anxiety with a kind of abounding peace that rises up like the water in a well, and that sort of lifts you off your feet, lifts you off the ground.
We have to remember that what he's talking about is a kind of abounding peace, it's a kind of overflowing internal freedom.
And when a person has it, he doesn't have any doubt.
It's not the kind of
neutral zone, which is just maybe kind of numbness, kind of novocaine.
See, we don't have any words to describe the positive content, say, of Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or spirituality, do we?
How do you describe health?
How do you describe well-being?
You've got a small heap of words, of pebbles to try to explain those things, and then you run out of them, and the rest of it is all beyond words.
We've got plenty of words to describe our hang-ups, and our difficulties, and our aches and pains, but we don't have any words to describe our well-being.
All that a person can do is sing, or something like that, or burst into jubilation, or St.
Nominate the Ancients.
Although I was saying that I'm never troubled now, listen to what happened to me sometime, and then he tells this experience of his in the Sanogin.
Now notice that this is a great trial, it's a great desolation, the kind you find in John of the Cross, even though this is a brief one, it's a kind of touch.
And notice that he's in the Sanogin, and we might think that these great trials and this kind of interior solitude, because that's what it is, could only happen in a solitary heart, but no, it happens to him in the monastery, of course.
This is talked about in the introduction of People of Number, and the translator is asking if Taurotheus has had mystical experiences.
That's the modern question.
Is somebody a mystic?
Has he had mystical experiences?
And he decides that this definitely isn't.
And he compares it with the dark night described by John of the Cross.
This is on page 53.
He points out that this life force, which St.
John of course talks about, is a permanent effect and gives him a permanent sort of immunity from fear, from doubt, from anxiety.
Okay, here's his thought.
There came to me only once a great and unspeakable thought.
I had to go through this in order to reach that point of solidity.
I was in such dire straits that I was almost at the point of departing this life.
But this affliction was contrived by the devil.
A trial of this kind could only be brought upon us by the devil's jealousy.
You know, there's more than one side to that thing.
Because if such a great good resulted from this trial, can it be said that the trial itself is only evil?
Can it be said that it's only the devil's jealousy?
Doesn't that devil's jealousy and his being exposed to temptation somehow have to lie within God's plan, within the hand of Providence, if it's going to lead to this great good that he experienced from it?
Of course it doesn't.
It's like Job.
Job is delivered over to be tempted.
Somehow it's all within God's will.
And his struggle is not with the devil.
His struggle is with God throughout.
Yeah, yeah.
How does the same person feel?
Well, I shouldn't say that, because most of the trials are out in front of you, in the asymptotical life, the way he's been describing it.
You know what's wrong.
You're having a struggle because your brother is doing something awful to you.
That's the way it is in Dorotheus mostly.
So this is unusual for his life.
It's a purely interior trial.
He doesn't give any cause for it.
And so, that's true.
The interior trial is something which is not, frankly, aimed at, let's say, in a lot of Christian monasticism.
Like Merton points out, if you get too deep into the Night of the Spirit or something, it can give you shock treatments.
If you get too irrational, if you get into too much of a crisis, it can bring you back to normal.
But you find a record of these things in the tradition.
Amonas is the first one that I remember that talked about this kind of thing.
Amonas, a disciple of St.
Anthony, who talks about the great desolation and how you have to believe and you have to hang on and plead for God's grace if you want to get through it.
If you get depressed and if you just sort of slack off and just go limp, then you won't go through it and you won't know the grace of the Holy Spirit.
You've got to plow through it in faith, begging God's help.
The atheist doesn't tell what his response would be.
No, you can't.
In fact, exactly what it is, is a helplessness.
It's not having any gas in your tank.
There's nothing there.
There's no life there.
And sometimes, like what do the fathers say?
The saints of the fathers say, go in yourself, stay in yourself, whatever you do don't leave, don't abandon your situation and wait for God's grace.
That's what they usually say.
But the monk needs that word of encouragement from somebody who's been through it and come out the other side in order to be able to do that.
He needs that support at least.
So that's what he's talking about.
He's talking about this great trial, because we could consider that this experience has nothing to do with the rest of the discourse.
It sounds like an irrelevant thing that he brought in, saying how he got that word.
But who is that figure of the bishop?
The figure of the bishop is a kind of
symbol, a kind of archetype for the spiritual father, for the helper, for the one that comes and releases him from the problem, you see.
Because the whole point of what he's saying here is that he got this security through confiding himself to the elders.
So the image of the bishop is a kind of image of the elders.
It's a strange thing that he doesn't explain that, you know, he just leaves the connection implicit.
That's the way it seems to me.
It's great that he's a bishop, you know, it's great that he didn't see
the vision of an old monk coming and helping them.
But he didn't, he was a bishop.
And the fact that it's a bishop somehow ties it into something else, and somehow ties it into the whole apostolic tradition of the Church.
And as it were, it seems to put the elders in the apostolic tradition, recalling those words of Jesus, that he who hears you will say to the apostles, now here's me, that kind of thing.
And so somehow that experience is tied in to the lesson that's united to the experience, this lesson of consultation.
Otherwise it would be irrelevant.
Otherwise you could say, well, look, he got what he got, that solidity, simply through an individual experience.
It doesn't have anything to do with his consultation with the others that he's talking with.
It would be a counter-argument other than a positive one.
But he interprets it differently, it seems.
I don't even know what happens when there's a period that's likely to strike, which is, to me, remarkably dull.
In this experience, we actually also have a length of paper that we attempt to fill in, but we can't have water within the drawing.
It's like a period when some complicated stuff...
But that was the failure of that.
I guess he projected his own resources, his own material.
He would actually walk up and down the park with his feet if he could.
He had a lame foot.
My heart was heavy, my mind dark, nothing could comfort me and there was no relief anywhere, but I shed him on all sides.
And he didn't go to, he didn't go to console anybody.
The grace of God comes swiftly to the soul when endurance is no longer possible.
No way he didn't go to Abba John.
I was then, as I said, in a state of temptation and distress.
So he was standing looking, sort of, just gazing there at the lake in the morning, praying
I turn towards the church and perceive someone having the appearance of a bishop come into the sanctuary.
Now this is as though carried by wings, however.
It doesn't hold up in the original, unfortunately, I don't think.
The translator in the French here... It's a strange word, you see, that he uses.
And the translation in the French is... What is it?
Wearing a vestment of ermine.
The word that Wheeler translated, wings, or winged, comes out as ermine in French.
But he's not sure of it either.
And he says that somebody else translated it, bringing an offering, bringing oblation to the sanctuary.
So it's pretty obscure.
I don't know where he really got his wings.
It must have been.
Ordinarily, he never approaches you and says, OK, something is really powerful.
It's a very convincing experience.
It's a lot like, a lot like, it resembles the experience of St.
Ronaldo's conversion when he had the vision of St.
Apollinaris walking through the church, the bishop of Apollinaris walking through a church in St.
Ronaldo's church.
That's not much of a change from Ronaldo.
Well, that was already a change, I think.
That was one change.
Yeah, but he saw him twice, didn't he?
Two at a time.
Yeah, but the second time he was convinced.
He converted.
He became a monk.
Are you thinking of that later experience with the psalm?
Oh, you mean in the same time?
Wasn't he still in the chapel when the spirit came?
So he remained standing in a position of prayer, and I stood behind him in great fear of praying.
And then he turned and came towards me.
And this is a kind of a long sort of liturgized thing that happens.
He drew near to me, I felt my pain, and I saw the very presence of this person.
And he never identifies this person.
Then he stood in front of me and, stretching out his hand, touched me on the breast and tapped me on the chest with his fingers.
And he recites the psalm.
And he keeps tapping him, evidently, throughout the psalm.
He repeats these words three times.
Then he departed.
Immediately, light flooded my mind and I rejoined my heart in comfort and sweetness.
And that psalm is typical of the psalms.
It's typical of the individual lamentations, as they're called, but the psalmist goes down into the pit and then he's rescued.
And those are the bread and butter, the food and drink of the monk, those psalms.
And his experience somehow relates to them.
And that was the way it was here.
Because the psalm exactly reproduces his experience.
Does that psalm, the psalm 40,
Some of the other songs are 22 and 68, have that same shape to them, that same trajectory, down and then the rescue, and the praise of God at the end.
I was a different man.
I ran out after him, hoping to find him, but I could not.
He disappeared.
From that moment on, by God's providence, I have not known myself to be troubled by sorrow or fear, but the Lord has sheltered me until now through the prayers of the seniors
He connects that somehow, it confirms his belief in the tradition of the abbess.
Maybe there's something that he left out, maybe there's something that he didn't tell about this that explains why he makes that connection.
Maybe there was a prior connection in his mind, in his problem itself, about something, about his relation with the Fathers or something like that, but he doesn't tell that and so we don't know.
Yeah, because he didn't go to anybody and here he gets this vision.
Yeah, I'm going to wait for a vision.
But it confirms his conclusion, I think.
So there's a context here that we're not aware of.
It doesn't tell us anything.
I told you all this so that you may know how much rest and tranquility man may have.
In some ways, it's as if he had been tempted against the tradition of the Fathers, that he had been tempted in some way
to doubt, and that this had confirmed him in his relation with his abbot.
But he hasn't said explicitly.
By not settling anything by himself, or by casting everything that concerns himself upon God, and on those who act without ever prior to God, learn then, brothers, to inquire, and convince that not to set one's own path is a great thing.
Do not form the opinion, the translation is too mild here, that there is any other safe way to travel.
Really, because there isn't any other way to be saved.
Now, in a case where you have nobody to ask, you know, my spiritual father doesn't understand.
He's too shallow.
God never leaves him to himself, but always guides him according to his will.
If a man really sets his heart upon the will of God, God will enlighten a little child to tell that man what is his will.
But if a man does not fulfill the desire of the will of God, even if he goes in search of a prophet, God will put into the heart of the prophet a reply like a deception in his own heart.
You find these things sometimes in the stories of the fathers.
I didn't take the time to pick out some examples, but the reply of the father very often corresponds to what the disciple brings with him.
In other words, if he's not really fully open or fully resolved, if he's half-hearted when it comes to the spiritual father, you'll get a half-hearted or a half-wit, you'll get a cut-rate reply.
They'll say, well, why did you tell him such a hard thing that one day?
And the father says, well, because he's a real worker, because he really is seeking the Word of God.
And why did you give that other guy such a light assignment?
Why did you let him off so easy?
Either because he needed that, because he's not any stronger, or because he's not really sincere.
It's that kind of thing, which is surprising.
You'd think that the spiritual father would always cut right through like a sword, you know, and give the person the complete right.
But evidently that doesn't work.
Evidently it wouldn't.
You can't do that.
You can't batter down the obstacles.
That's a strange thing.
But it seems to be that way with God, in a sense, you know?
But if we go to God with only half a heart, we'll get only half an answer.
If we only go halfway to me, if we only go halfway to God, there's a silence, isn't there?
And sometimes, of course, he goes all over like this in the poem.
But really what he wants to do is to bring us to him, is to bring us to a kind of whole-heartedness, a single-heartedness.
And then we'll get a clear answer.
But you see how we have to put it together on one side with our faith in order to have it put together for us on the other side with his grace.
We have to pull ourselves all into one.
And then we find ourselves sort of confirmed in that unity, that singleness.
that centeredness that we have pulled ourselves into.
And how do we pull ourselves into it?
By faith.
And by the tension of prayer.
By moving towards it, against the opposition of doubt and of delay and of disappointment and all of that.
And then we get the answer.
And the answer is what?
The answer is the breath of the Spirit in our hearts, which simply makes us larger than we were, makes us freer than we were, illuminates us, and somehow just fills us.
like what Dorotheus experienced, the recognition of Islam.
This quotation here is from Ezekiel 14, 9.
If anyone of the House of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart, and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face... You see, putting his idols into his heart.
If we're hiding an idol somewhere in our hearts and we don't show it, and we even come to the Prophet, the Prophet's going to be deceived.
Taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, he's as if blinding himself and then asking to come into being.
And yet comes to a prophet to inquire for himself of me, I the Lord will answer him myself, and I will set my face against that man, I will make him a sign and a byword, and cut him off from the midst of the people.
And you shall know that I am the Lord.
And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people.
I hear he's talking about a perverse prophet too.
He's talking about a deceived prophet, a dishonest prophet.
And a prophet who is deceived also morally, so that the prophet too is informed, and he too suffers the same penalties as an inquirer.
That's the same thing.
It's the same principle.
And it's mysterious, because we don't think it's right, actually.
Why doesn't he enlighten him?
Why doesn't he just tell him?
That's the whole thing about the mystery in the scriptures and the mystery of God's Word, that we're supposed to do something, and until we're ready to do, we're not going to know.
Until we pull ourselves together and we really are ready to believe, we're not going to hear.
Until we're ready to follow, we're not going to get the word.
Until we really want the truth with the whole of ourselves and listen for the truth with the whole of our heart, which means also with that part of the heart which we'll do, we're not going to hear, because the truth is for the whole of ourselves.
It's hard to know how to express that.
And that's sending somebody back from the dead, of course, is Jesus himself in the sense that there isn't Christ and they don't hear him.
That's right.
And it really is a love relationship, too.
We can talk about light, or word, or information, or guidance, but what we're really talking about is an exchange of selves.
To the extent that we give ourselves, we receive the self of God in the Holy Spirit.
But to the extent that we close ourselves and sort of hide our idols in our heart, as he says, and worship someone else, which is really ourselves, we're closed.
And it goes beyond the words and the light that we get.
It's on another level.
And then there's this other thing, okay, that is why we ought to use all our ability to take a straight course towards the will of God, not to twist the palm of our own heart.
According to him, a straight course towards the will of God is had by consulting somebody else, by consulting the elders.
If there's something good to be done, we hear from some holy man that it is good, then we should hold it as good to do it, but not believe that we've done it perfectly just because we've done it.
Then the translation gets messed up.
Actually, Father Desai here in his spiritual guide draws a lot from Dorotheus and he's even got a translation of this passage.
This is in the two sections on Discernment of Spirits and Manifestation of Thoughts to the Spiritual Father.
It starts on page 28.
And then the following section on the Cutting Out of Self-Will and Obedience.
And about at least 50% of this first section is from Dorotheus.
Let's see how he translates this.
If a thing is good and we hear a saint say that it is good, we ought to judge it as such without thinking for all that that we are necessarily doing it right and just as it should have been done.
We must do it the best way we know of.
Then refer to... Actually, we should refer to him again.
Refer to it again to find out if we really did the right thing the right way.
That means consult again.
Even after this, we cannot be definitively free from all anxiety, but we must wait for the judgment of God.
Somewhat like the holy abbot Agathon was asked, Father, do you also fear?
And he answered, At least I have done my best, but I know not whether my works have been pleasing to God.
Because God's judgment is one thing, man's judgment is another.
Remember that reading of Isaiah 55, my thoughts are not like your thoughts, my words, my ways are not like your ways.
That saying of Agathon, it's worth looking up the story, which is Agathon number 19 in the Sayings of the Desert Father, page 29.
No, it's 29, number 29.
It is said about Agathon that he forced himself to fulfill all the commandments.
He was a real worker.
When he sailed in a vessel, he was the first to handle the oars, and when the brethren came to see him, he laid the table with his own hands, as soon as they was prayed, because he was full of the love of God.
He was also full of the fear of God, you see.
When he was at the point of death, he remained three days with his eyes fixed wide open.
I don't have any kind of fear.
The brethren roused him, saying, Abba Agathon, where are you?
He replied, I am standing before the judgment seat of God.
They said, are you not afraid, Father?
I think, you know, in another version of that you get, are you afraid, God?
Are you afraid, too?
Often that way these things get hunted down, that's the easy thing to say.
But the answer is not so.
He replied, until this moment I have done my utmost to keep the commandments of God, but I am a man.
How should I know if my deeds are acceptable to God?
The brethren said to him,
Do you not have confidence in all that you have done according to the law of God?
See, that's not in continuity with your life.
Often that's how you can tell that these things are translated, that there's some bug in them.
Because they probably asked him, Father, are you afraid?
Not expecting that you should have any fear, because that would be a continuous question.
The old man replied, I shall have no confidence until I meet God.
Truly, the judgment of God is not that of man.
When they wanted to question him further, he said to them,
of your charity, do not talk to me anymore, for I no longer have time.
So he died with joy.
So in spite of his uncertainty, he died with joy.
And that's the paradox, that with this lack of certainty about our own justice, we can have a liberty and a joy and a peace.
That's the paradox of the saint, the paradox of Dorotheus sort of saying that, well, still don't trust in your own justice, you still don't believe in you.
pleased God necessarily, and yet he's able to be completely at peace.
He says, don't be without anxiety, have some anxiety, the right kind, but yet he says, I'm without anxiety.
So it's that peace that goes beyond the ordinary.
You mean when he died with joy?
It could be, yeah.
Sometimes it is, but it doesn't seem to always be that way, even for the saints.
So he died with joy.
They saw him depart like one greeting his dearest friends.
So he departed with that kind of confident movement finally.
Because he was seeing God in some way.
He was so much in his presence that he had no more fear.
There's something there that we actually reach through, in a way.
There's a cracking that can occur somehow in our own thing through faith, by which we don't even reflect, sort of, about the judgment of God, or say, put it on one side and the mercy of God on the other side.
trusts in the mercy of God in such a way that it is its own assurance, I think.
That's what St.
Paul is saying when he says we're justified by faith.
And that's what Luther is saying, too.
In a sense, Luther goes way over and exaggerates the thing.
Exaggerates it in the sense that he cuts off the other side and becomes a kind of rations.
But the principle there is, somehow, that if we sincerely have that faith in the mercy of God, in the grace of God,
We can only do that when the grace of God itself is speaking in us and giving us that faith.
It's like that thing of, if you really believe, you can say to this mountain, and I'll be casting you asleep.
But this is another kind of mountain.
Maybe it's more likely that Jesus means that mountain.
The mountain of our sins, or something like that.
If you really believe, and if you really believe, you'll know that you believe, because the evidence of that forgiveness and freedom will be inside of you.
The grace will be sustained.
John, did you have something?
No, I don't think so.
Well, it sounds like there was a process there.
He said he was before the judgment seat of God, but it's as if he wasn't feeling so much the reassurance of God yet, but was still in sort of the ante room, in a state before that full assurance that he received just before he dies.
That's what it sounds like in this story.
And then he said, I won't be reassured until I'm really in the presence of God, until I see the face of God, something like that.
And then he practically did at the end.
As if we were greeting his friends, as if we had seen the face of God.
That's right, there's a process there.
Any questions about that before we go on?
I'll just try to tie this up.
Could it be a possibility that this is a reflection of a Catholic vision as a blessing?
Right, that's a strange thing.
I think he means that in a way.
That this was a vision of an elder.
It was a vision of the father figure.
Now, if he had been, say, deprived of his own spiritual father at that time, that would explain it all in a sense.
He wasn't able, for some reason, to console Abba John, then it would be logical, but he doesn't say that.
In all the other examples, he's so explicit about it.
Yeah, there's something missing.
I don't think so.
No, it's the same in the original.
It's curious.
I don't blame it on the translation, but we can't do that.
Okay, just to try to put this into context, also to just bring to light some of the objections that there are bound to be.
Remember that whole thing about the false self and the ego, and then the true self, and the movement from one to the other.
That's what this is about.
And some people, you know, nowadays, this Prograph Journal thing, one of the sections in the Prograph Journal is to write a dialogue with a wisdom figure of some kind.
And when you do that, it's as if you were writing a dialogue with yourself, or writing a dialogue with God, or somewhere in between.
And that's a kind of modern version, a modern and isolated version, in a sense, of this recourse to the spiritual father.
And of course, it lacks the sacramental
But what you do is you get beyond your ego.
Your ego does a dialogue with something beyond itself, you see?
And that's what we're doing in this tradition.
Now we have to remember the basic role of the spiritual father tradition in monasticism, not only Western monasticism, but almost universally, the idea of a guide, one who initiates and so on.
And even if the guide is not a realized person himself, especially in Christianity, he plays a sacramental role.
fits into the providence of God so that he can be a channel of grace.
The typical place we find this, of course, is not in the, the strongest place we find this, is not in the monastic tradition itself, but it's in the other tradition, it's in the hierarchical tradition of the Church, where you have priests, you have bishops and priests, and people who have, by virtue of their
ordination, a certain role to play for the people of God.
Now whether or not they have a special charism or whether or not they're faithful or good or holy or wise or anything like that, they still have this role and they still are channels of grace for people.
The most obvious example is in the sacrament of penance, but there's a larger sphere in which that's also true.
in which God puts those people in the church as sacramental people in some way, so that people may receive grace.
Remember in the Old Testament where the leper had to go to the priest and show himself to the priest, and Jesus even sends the lepers to the priest when he heals them, somehow to keep that sacramental thing intact.
And of course in the New Testament it's more meaningful because of the grace of the Holy Spirit that carries and is really there.
But sometimes it's only there in the official way, and sometimes it's really there in the personal way.
So the person not only is a sign and a channel of grace in the sacramental way, but also in the personal way.
But very often it's not true.
Now the same thing is true around the monastic side, even where there isn't a charism or dimension.
But now, we don't have a tradition of non-priest spiritual fathers now, but that will probably grow up.
especially with the women, some of the women don't become priests, and with the charismatic movement, because in the charismatic movement you have the beginning of a tradition of spiritual consultation, which is horizontal instead of vertical.
People just talking to one another, sharing their spiritual experience and life with one another, and then getting guidance from one another, getting, as they say, a word of the Lord from one another.
This thing of prophecy growing up, you see,
takes the place, to some extent, of the teaching role, or the spiritual father role.
Of course, it can't totally replace it, but in the absence of spiritual fathers, it is a partial replacement.
So I think what you just said is that your office, say in the Romantic context, your office has a sacramental character in itself, besides any particular character that you as a person might have.
That's right, yeah.
That's differently evaluated in the Western tradition and the Eastern tradition.
That's interesting if you look at it, because it's typical.
If you look at the West, you find that charism offers very strong interest.
So, for instance, the abbot is a real source of grace for his monks, even if he's not at all holy or wise himself.
And then in the Eastern tradition, remember Peter and the structural, institutional, official dimension of the Church, which is real, too.
It's real to the extent that you don't believe in it.
In the Eastern Church you'll find somebody like Simeon the New Theologian saying that if a priest is not holy, he can't even forgive sins.
He says something like that, right?
That is, the sacrament of penance is made a totally personal thing.
Now, he's not typical of the Eastern tradition.
He's an extremist.
But remember, he's a saint for them.
He's the New Theologian for them.
And so that's not too far off the main track of the Eastern belief.
But the charism has to be there in a personal and realized way.
There's something... Right, but it can really leave you in a bad position.
There aren't any priests around that are like that.
So really the Catholic thing, it's a Mahayana, the Roman Catholic tract is a Mahayana where even where the charism seems to have disappeared in some way, the people can find grace.
The people can find grace in these ordinary sort of humdrum looking channels, and I believe in it.
That's part of Christianity.
That sacramentality, just like the Eucharist, it's ordinary bread, you know, but it's the life of God.
And so the priest may be ordinary bread too, nothing special.
But, it's God's grace, it's the Holy Spirit that comes to the throne.
And he says that, at any given time, the greatest religious personalities in the world may be called to the religions.
They may not be the greatest religious personalities, but they are the church.
But Christ addressed himself in that way.
He said, there is no hand or a woman greater than John the Baptist.
But at least, sometimes there are people who are greater than me.
So it's hard to
Except that from the eastern point of view, even from the orthodox point of view, it carries on the space so much.
And from the monastic point of view, it's hard to spot it, of course.
It's such a... No, Peter is exactly the example.
Peter is the model of this.
He's the one who stands for this exactly.
He's the stone which is sunk into the ground, and which is completely ordinary, completely common.
And from the koinon comes the koinonia.
comes a communion.
From the common comes a communion.
It's the same word.
And because he is sunk into the ordinary, in that way he's just plain humanity, therefore he becomes a channel to all of humanity, a channel of grace to all of humanity, with no conditions, no special qualities.
And that's the beautiful thing, the beautiful hidden thing about Catholicism.
And even, for instance, when the Pope is not going, like someone has a medieval situation, inspecting remains unshakable.
Most of the people don't inspect the incumbent.
Nowadays, we have other Popes that do the same thing.
I'm not just talking about the Pope either.
It's the whole hierarchy and the whole of the priesthood, everyone who has office in the Church.
I mean, it's like some philosophy I can never really refer to.
I think it's a smaller thing.
I also heard Mary refer to it as the reed of God.
I guess that's not a musical reed.
You just can go through and play with music because it's all present in itself.
And so Jesus took this reed, and it was the very mechanism, playability, pliability, purity, meaning of God.
I never heard that.
derivation of Simon from Reid, but it's interesting.
Reid is shaking, and Bach isn't shaking.
Okay, this whole thing we were talking about last time,
the risk of illusion and so on, and the risk of appropriating grace in a bad sense, so that the ego gets inflated and we become our own guide, and we sort of put our spirituality or grace in our pocket in some sense, which becomes totally upside down.
And yet we may feel it, that we're going fine.
Precisely, we may feel well-being here.
The ego impersonating the Self, impersonating the true Self.
But remember, as long as we use this language, we're still not quite in the Christian framework.
As long as we're talking about the false self and the true self, that's it.
It's an artificial scheme, which is not quite the Christian thing, but we use it as a kind of scaffolding and take it away to find what we're really talking about.
There's this contrary problem, of course,
The expression of this thing in the Old Testament, where the whole structure gets built up, is a kind of ego structure of man's religion, and then finally he makes up God when he comes into conflict, or we're aware of God.
But there's a contrary problem of the kind of tendency of a church structure to suppress freedom, and to overdo this thing of obedience and authority and so on, until the liberty of the spirit isn't able really to appear.
And that's sort of between those two things.
That's the other side of the Peter thing now.
And the other side of the James thing, I just want to cross that.
When James really gets the upper hand over Paul, then the liberty which is supposed to be the proof
of the pedagogy of the church doesn't appear, because it's all pedagogy.
You always remain in school, you always remain in a minor school, you never graduate until you've given your sons a gun.
So that's the risk on the other side.
And one can say, well, that's where Dorotheus is putting us, you know?
He's putting us in that school.
So we have to be able to contend with that objection.
Because, as a matter of fact, it's always been very difficult for the Church to leave... Parallel to this, the cenobitical life and the monastic life.
The cenobitical life is the structure, and the monastic life is called the life of obedience.
The cenobitical life is called obedience, something like that.
And the purpose of that obedience is really, of course, to lead somebody to the freedom of the sons of God by helping him to get behind himself.
The obedience of this inaugural, and the stresses of this inaugural, and, of course, the communion of this inaugural, help a person both really stick into the character, in a sense, that is, the positive support helps a person to get beyond himself and relax into a form of love and communion.
But the aspect of obedience
a person to get beyond himself by going where he wouldn't go on himself.
Between those two, the vertical and the horizontal, and you find both of them very clearly in this environment, Christian monasticism, the peculiar Christian qualities of monasticism are so visible.
Obedience would somehow insert you into the will of God, and also help you get beyond your own self-will.
And the communion would help you to get beyond your own self-love and your own self-will, by sort of disappearing into the flow of life among the living.
Those are called Christian values.
Not exclusively, but that's where they appear in those terms.
But that's the cinematical life, not the aromatical life, on the other hand.
It's supposed to give you space for deliverance, space for freedom, in the sense of power.
and the freedom of his own embodiment is largely an interior freedom, because basically it's made in a very simple way, in a very austere way, which is hedged in in various ways.
But the fact is that the major item in it is not obedience.
Obedience is the major item in a semi-critical life, and then that pressure of obedience is lifted, and the person himself is somehow locked into the way of God, and is somehow
His own spirit is fused with the Holy Spirit in such a way that he has the discernment and also the freedom to be able to follow the Holy Spirit.
And the synagogical stress is no longer necessary.
And this at least is the theory, and I think it's true.
The trouble is, of course, a couple of troubles.
A couple of possibilities.
One possibility is that the person never graduates from school.
He just keeps getting his head going round and round and round.
But he just stays permanently in a structure which does not know how to encourage freedom, which does not know how to lead on to freedom.
In other words, which doesn't know how to let go.
A structure which doesn't know how to let go of the person, so that the person can be a person, but wants him always to be a schoolboy.
And the other possibility, of course, which is
But the other possibility is that the person gets an imaginary spiritual freedom before he's really gone even halfway up to God, you see.
And that he graduates while he's still in the third grade, existential.
And therefore he remains on the shadow level that he has to depart, going around in a circle following his own dreams and all those things.
So those are the two risks the devil and the deep blue sea see.
It's very hard to avoid them.
And it takes a kind of interaction between the values of obedience and community.
And on the other hand, this openness to the person, always, you know, see if there's a more likely condition.
I want to read some things from Desai, because he's dead on this.
You have to remember this isolation and individualism of modern Western man.
We come out of this.
And then also that apostolic cross that we're talking about, and the real cross of Christianity.
What's the cross for Jesus and for St.
Paul and for the Apostles?
Persecution by good people.
So it's the tension within the Church.
which very often is a real cross in this time, the tension between Paul and James in a sense of it, maybe not between Paul and James, but between Paul and the less enlightened disciples of James, and between James and the less enlightened disciples of Paul.
the partisans of the law and the partisans of the freedom of the press, okay?
And in the middle, the holy one, sometimes, sometimes I can't keep it all together in the conclusion, and despite the tension between those two principles, because people are different in the church, and they pull in different directions, this is the strange thing, which on a deeper level, on the ultimate level, are really the same direction.
The mantra has a particular approach, and that's interiorization.
Acquiring, despite exterior limitations, whether in the sanitatical life with its stress, or in the aromatical life, basically with its openness and with its emptiness, the desert.
The desert is not Disneyland.
The desert doesn't have the satisfactions of the world, it's an emptiness.
And the hermitess, the land of Agastura,
Now, if we get the wrong kind of idea about the spiritual liberty of a human, then we're going to see him as kind of a happy guy over there.
He's going about and sort of having spiritual fun.
But that's not it.
His liberty is really materialistic.
And he only does those things so that when the Spirit leads him to him, sort of by way of acceptance.
That's not his ordinary thing.
I'm going to read some stuff from Disabler.
This is the first in a section on the discernment of spirits and manifestation of thoughts.
This is parallel to what Dorothy has just been reading.
First he talks about God's sort of exceptions and how he doesn't treat everybody the same.
These requirements may often be manifested to us, these requirements of God, of the Spirit, under the form of interior inspirations of intimate impulses and attractions.
Attractions are meaningful.
This is an excellent thing, and the fact that our way of acting proceeds from the spontaneous outburst of the heart
rather than from a passive submission to an exterior goal, which it can be, which it can be, especially in the Sanhedrin.
Lends to our action its true quality and its value of personal commitment.
The new law of the Gospels does not consist in an exterior code of precepts, but in the intimate action of the Spirit removed from it.
However, we must add that all the inspirations or thoughts that arise in us, even when they apparently look excellent, do not necessarily come from God.
Satan is a clever one at transforming himself into an angel of God.
And the secret of our deep motivation is very often the skepticism.
We have to be aware of that.
A certain skepticism as regards our reasons for doing a particular thing or wanting a particular thing.
And it's that skepticism, connected with the fear of God, which makes us able to consult, to ask somebody else, makes us able to leave it open to discussion within ourselves and outside of ourselves rather than Russian memory.
We've got more trust in God and in God working through others than we have in our own life.
That's the point.
Which really is a trust in the communion.
An ancient has said that zeal for fasting, solitude, or prolonged prayer, or inversely, the seemingly legitimate concern about the maintaining of one's health, or again, the spiritual and material welfare of neighbor, may well proceed from a basic egotism which, to better satisfy itself, takes on the master virtue.
Examine the sweetness you feel in your soul, lest it be a fraudulent device contrived by some cruel and treacherous physician.
This is a standard of the ancients.
We must therefore be extremely careful about not letting ourselves be taken by surprise.
Duly delivered, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits of fear and doubt, because many false prophets are going on into this world.
Okay, then he goes on about discretion, discernment.
The fathers have often enumerated the criteria of the discernment of spirit.
Arsinophus re-echoes the old tradition when he writes this from a letter of Arsinophus.
Every thought in which the calm of humility does not prevail.
Notice at juncture two notions, calm and humility.
And remember that catastasis, that state that Dorotheus was talking about before when he was talking about work and how to know what to do when work and disturbance arises.
And the purity of heart and passion is really the same thing.
The icon of humility does not prevail, is not according to God, but is obviously a so-called good inspiration coming from the evil spirits.
The criterion of Saint Ignatius' argument is peace, isn't it?
Peace and a kind of indifference.
But the indifference allows you to be peaceful instead of moving forward, resting for a while, to be one decision, one thing or another.
The reason is that our Lord always presents himself in great calm while everything that comes from the enemy is always accompanied by trouble and agitation.
And even when they come to you in the clothing of sheep, know for certain that inwardly they are ravening wolves.
That's a pretty good application of this scriptural image, in which Jesus says, the false teachers have come among you, the wolves and sheep's clothing.
And the clothing of the sheep, what is it?
It's the clothing of peace, of bondlessness and so on.
And yet inside, we shall never have our fruits.
We're recognized by the trouble we're caught by the fruits we shall never have.
Maybe not instantly, but after a little while.
So we've got to discern even the peace, because there's a kind of peace, which is the peace of our own world.
And then there's the real deep peace, which goes all the way down to the center.
And the key to discernment is learning the quality of peace, which is really the sign of the world's well.
Learning the quality of peace and of freedom and of joy, which is really the mark of our being totally together and totally connected with that center.
Remember the center of the grain of gold?
Now, he says, all you have to do is orient your life-sphere completely in touch with that whole other town.
Now, there is a kind of experience which we can't really feel all the time as such, but there's a kind of experience, or a quality of experience, which tells us that we've got the channel open to that center, that core, as Raymond called it.
And that's this calm of humility, peace and freedom, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
And of course there are plenty of fruits of the Holy Spirit, but there are sort of seconds as far as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
There's a second quality, sort of, than the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are not quite joy, and not quite peace, and not quite love, but sort of close imitation, which means that we're a little out of
a little out of tune with all this, a little bit closer to putting in a self-logical massage.
Now, it's not all the time, of course, as I say, that we're going to be feeling it, but by and large, our level, the direction of the brain can be different.
as to how we relate to that center.
And the quality of karma, if you know what I'm saying... Remember when John of the Cross, in the 13th chapter of the first book of the Ascension, on karma, he says, he's neither elated when some of his countrymen either cast down or lose or something, but he remains in the center of his morality.
Isn't that a beautiful thing?
Remains in the center.
The mere knowledge of these criteria does not suffice, however, to make it possible for everyone to detect with full security the origin of their thoughts and the inspiration which relies on this law, as it is not enough to possess a theoretical knowledge of a given technique to perform it and slowly the thoughts come and go.
Somehow the experience of this kind has to do that, and then also the experience of its counterfeits and the habit of judgment.
And something like Emerson Corley talks about
You have to learn to discern between good and evil.
You have to learn to eat the bread of the mature, rather than the milk of the infants.
And he equates this discernment with growth.
He equates maturity with the discerning between good and evil, and eating bread instead of drinking milk.
I chew one of these up.
I don't know what all of that means.
But the correlation of learning the lesson of discernment and of maturity is very important.
The true discernment of spirits proceeds from an instinct.
In other words, it's not an adding, it's not a balancing of things.
Others say, well, so much over here, so much over here, and see where the needle goes.
It's not that way.
If there's a needle, it's a needle of instinct.
It's a needle of feeling, and of that kind of intuitive knowledge, rather than a needle of calculation.
A very acute spiritual attack, which is a gratuitous gift of God, and which is normally granted to those among them whose heart is fairly purified,
As long as there remains in us some connivance with our passions, we're always going to be putting a hand on one side of the scale.
The latter are always liable, suddenly, to falsify the proper functioning of our discernment.
We put a flip on one side of the balance, without even knowing it ourselves.
This is why only those men who have fully mastered their passions, to whom the Spirit is granted a gift of the profound and intimate grace of peacefulness, the grace of peacefulness, has a key in the deepest tension.
and who, from this viewpoint, are thereby suited for a solitary life, seems very connected to the all-medical life, proceeding from the cenobitical life to the solitary life.
Now, this is over-theorizing a bit, obviously, because where in the world do you have the framework for that sort of free progression from the cenobitical life to the all-medical life when a person reaches a certain stage of spiritual development?
Only in a kind of remembered paradise of some ancient time, because it hardly exists in the world, maybe in Mount Everest.
So we can't really look for that criterion of holy elements in our present situation.
It would be nice if it could happen, but we don't have it yet.
And especially in the modern world, where we just don't have that shape of things anymore.
Or sometimes because they have to, right?
In a benedictine monastery, where do you go?
There's no provision for your medical aid.
So if you're in that framework, which doesn't permit your medical aid, this can't take place, but the person can have reached this stage, you see?
He can be there, but he can't externally express himself.
And that's only now, you see, because they didn't have it until this point.
So, this is somewhat... Let me give you an example of Abhijan.
Only he may, without presumption, exercise the proper discernment in this matter of personal thoughts, at least in ordinary cases.
Hence the reference to John in Bartholomew.
He who has not yet attained to such purity, but has only one thing left for him to do, the manifestation of his thoughts to his spiritual work, to complete submission to the discernment of the Lord.
And he goes on quoting Fashion.
So we'll continue this next time.
I think Desai is worth consulting.
I'll put this over on the shelf.
Where we stopped was on page 30.