March 8th, 1983, Serial No. 00545

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Monastic Orientation Set 2 of 2

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There's the liturgy, the literature of early monasticism. We'll be talking about books. And we'll just stay here for a little while and then we'll go over to the library and look at the books themselves to get an idea of what's available. And the most available, the most accessible editions of all these things, these are things cheaper than in English, where the editions are better ones. This list, this chronology is just to give you kind of a framework of early monasticism. Now you'll notice that it goes much further than that, up to 1540, but the later dates have been used to fill in certain peaks or landmarks so you can orient yourself in early monasticism. And you'll notice that the calendar sort of is much more detailed, much more dense. During a few centuries, 4th century, 5th century, 6th century, that is.


And the first dates there are the persecutions. And then the Colosseum, that's it. And then we'll move later on from east to west. And so here are some facts that are more or less separate from the main chapter. About the literature of early Christian monasticism, you'll find in that RB 1980, a couple of pages given to it, I thought it was more thorough than it is because they can't do too much in a couple of pages. It's page 11 through 13 in the introduction. A little digression in that historical introduction. So I'd like to go through that and then add some things and then take a look at the books themselves. This for, simply for practical reasons, for an orientation so you find what you need. You know, since, well, since the Council there's been a great renewal


in seeking into the sources of the monastic tradition. And it's amazing that a lot of Benedictines prior to the Council didn't look much beyond the rule of St. Benedict to find out what monasticism was about. In other words, their image, their conception, their definition of monasticism would pretty much be deduced from the rule. Which isn't really, how do you say, isn't completely authentic. It doesn't go far enough. Because the rule itself is part of a tradition. The rule is the expression of a tradition and a particular expression, a particular branch of the tradition. And it doesn't say everything about the tradition. It doesn't say everything about the beginning of monasticism and it doesn't say everything about monasticism now, so we have to put it in the framework. You'll notice that in the prologue to our own constitutions, that is taken into account. That is, the rule is inserted within this historical framework. That's the only way to get liberated from certain fixations that we get when we take one form or something and then absolutely turn it in.


Okay, I'm going to read a bit of this, interpolate some things, and then we'll add some other things. The principal source of our knowledge of the origin of Christian monasticism is in the literature. Then he breaks down the literature into its various genera, the various kinds of literature. And I was thinking of talking about it that way, but it's not sometimes the most... You can look at it two ways. One way is look at it according to the kinds of literature or look at it according to the actual movements, which actually has a lot more meaning to it. But the kinds of literature he's talking about are biographies, the lives of the saints, which are pretty frequent after the life of Anthony. In fact, you've got a few lives of saints whose existence we're doubting now, like Paul or Herman. Collections of sayings, those are the apothegmentae. Apothem is a saying, is a sentence, an utterance. And sayings are mixed with stories, actually, in the sayings of the Fathers. Frequently there'd be a saying that comes out in the context of a little narration,


and sometimes it's just a narration. Often it's a question and an answer. And the sayings of the Fathers are thought to be really the thing that's closest to the ground, the thing that's closest to the original soil of monasticism. They have a flavor about them which is sometimes very raw. Although it would be also incorrect to think that they are simply passing on to you monasticism because the fact, the reality, like a photograph, because they've been filtered also through somebody's consciousness. In other words, the person who collected those collected some and threw out others, and filtered them, and then with successive additions, and so there's been a lot of, in other words, there's been a lot of mediation there too. It's not just the raw stuff. But it's a good deal, perhaps more raw, more primitive, closer to the soil than something like the Life of Anthony, of course, which has been written by a bishop, by a theologian,


who has a particular lesson that he wants to teach. And this is the thing that scandalizes us sometimes. And also in the scriptures we expect things to be photographic, we expect things to be exact history, the way people would have to write history nowadays. But it seems that in other centuries people were unable to think that way, really, just about flat facts. Everything was in the context of something, in the context of a theology, really, of a deeper theological understanding. This is true in the Gospels, it's true in the Old Testament, and it's true in the monastic religion. So we needn't be scandalized by it, but we have to try to get in harmony with a deeper point, a deeper point of view. If we're not in sympathy with it, then everything is scandalized. If we are, if we do resonate with it, then we'll find that it's just our food, even though we have to make some critical observations on it. Okay, the Sayings of the Fathers.


Now, the Sayings of the Fathers are actually divided into several collections, as we'll see when we look at the books. The most useful one, perhaps, right now, and the most accurate, is this Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedict O'Rourke. You didn't have an English translation of this collection up to the time that you did it, a few years ago, I think it was 1976, something like that, 75. Now, this is the so-called alphabetical collection. I'm sorry if this is old stuff and repetition for some of you who already know it. It's the alphabetical collection, which means that it's under the letters of the alphabet, alphabetizing the names of the fathers. So you start out with Anthony. It's a little bit out of alphabetical order. It's funny, under a given letter, it's not in alphabetical order, but it goes from A to, what, Celeste. You start out with Anthony, in spite of the fact that Abraham, Achilles, Agathon, and so on,


and they end up with Zeno. No, that's the English alphabet. Remember, the order of the Greek letters is different. So they end up with... Or. Oh, maybe. Now, this was the Greek collection, the so-called Greek collection. The collection that was more familiar to us was the so-called systematic collection, where the sayings of the fathers are grouped in chapters under various topics. So the first one is on the progress of the fathers. The second one is on Hezekiah. The third one, I think, is on compunction. The fourth one, I think, is on the temptation of fornication, and so on, and so on. They were all 14 books. Each one is on a topic. A lot of the sayings are the same, so they overlap. So a lot of the same sayings are in both books, but they're in different order because of that systematic treatment. And they're also somewhat different, very often.


You'll find that the version of the saying is different. And then that opens up this whole other area of the various translations and the various versions, actual narrations of the sayings. You'll find that there's an Ethiopian and an Armenian and a Syrian tradition, and some sayings are lost in one language and carried down in another language. So they'll be different in one tradition than they are in another, and sometimes you can see why. Because a particular point of view, a particular saying, would be interpreted in a way which was not acceptable in a given tradition. Like when all of the works of Origen are destroyed in Greek, and then they turn up later in Syriac and in other languages, and now there's a translation back in the Greek to try to find out what everyone said. But when Origen was condemned, you see, in the Greek church, he sort of oozed out into these other traditions and comes back in a couple of thousand years later. So you find quite a variation in the sayings, too.


For instance, there's this Wallach's Burj collection, so-called the Paradise of the Fathers, which is from the Syriac, which contains a lot of sayings that are not in the other collections and contains other versions of some of the same sayings. That can be kind of disconcerting, because you think, ah, here's a bit of wisdom, that's from another tool, and then you find it in another version, which is quite different. And so you're sort of over the fence. Sometimes, unexpectedly, there comes a version which finally means something to you of a given saying. I should have some examples, but there's no time to do anything. In other words, you've been very puzzled by the regular version of a saying, and then suddenly somebody produces one from the Ethiopian that makes sense. There are several French monks who have been specialists, particularly in this kind of work, in French and Italian. One of them is Lelouard, who worked with the Armenian tradition.


One of these people will specialize, and he'll take the Teterakon, that is the saying to the fathers in a particular tradition, specialize in that language, and bring that into one of our modern languages. He did it, I believe, with the Armenian. Somebody else will do it with the Syriac. Somebody else will do it with the Ethiopian. And then, in French, there's this collection of the sentences of the fathers. The sayings of the fathers in Tiwag, and there's an index to all the different traditions, a cross-index. So if the saying is, so-and-so in the Greek collection, you can see where, if it's in the Ethiopian collection, and you can look them both up and see if they're different. Very useful. I don't know, the fathers have probably grown in being systematized. They've been zeroed in on, and boxed in, and they've almost gone, they've disappeared. Okay, then there's a third. In English, basically, there are three sets of the sayings of the fathers available. The first is the alphabetical collection, or Greek collection, translated by Benedict of Ward.


The second is the systematic collection, or the topical collection, which appears in Western asceticism. This has been around for a long while. It's a book edited by a certain Owen Chadwick, and it contains three things. Excuse me if I digress a bit, but it contains, first of all, the sayings of the fathers. There's seventeen books of the sayings of the fathers, arranged under these topics. The Progress of the Fathers in Perfection. Quiet. Ezekiel, that is, originally in the Greek. Compunction, self-control, lust. Poverty, patience according to him, etc. Right on up to charity. The second part of this book is selected conferences of caching. The first, the key conference of caching on purity of heart. The ninth, the tenth, on prayer. Those are the most, the best known conferences of caching, and most translated, most quoted. And then about three others, three of the more interesting conferences of caching.


All together there are seven of these conferences in here. And finally, The Rule of St. Benedict, completely. So it's a very useful book, really. Western Asceticism. I don't know why they said Western, and included the Desert Fathers. Perhaps they're distinguishing it from non-Christian, but I don't think so, at that date. There's a book entitled Western Mysticism, which is quite a different thing. Okay. Oh, the third one that we have in English, the third collection which completes the thing, sort of, is, what's the name of that one? It's translated by Benedict Award under the title The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers. It's a paperback book, about so, about half an inch thick. We have several copies of it in the library. Those are sayings that are not in this collection. So this one plus that one makes a pretty complete set. In the back of the sayings of the Desert Fathers,


there's a cross-index to the systematic collection. So you can find your way back and forth between the two. Okay, if you remember a particular saying, say it's about gluttony, and you want to find it in here, you don't have this one. You look in the cross-index, you can probably find it. Since most of the same sayings are in both volumes. Letters. The letters, we can't talk about the letters in general, because they're scattered around in the different bodies, in each corpus of literature. For instance, the literature of St. Anthony, where there are these letters of Anthony, about seven of them are supposed to be authentic. They were translated by Chitty and published in this form. One of those pamphlets, what do they call them? Fair Acres series, the Sisters of the River Fair. Very useful things. The letters of Amonas, who was supposed to be the contemporary, I think the first disciple of Anthony, are also in one of these pamphlets, and those are just as interesting.


It's interesting here that Anthony turns out to be quite a philosopher. He sounds very platonic in his letters. Yet they say that they're authentic. Then you've got letters of Pachomius and so on, which we'll get to that when we get to his literature, which is altogether homilies. What we think of there is those homilies of Pseudo-Mercurius. The so-called Mercurius the Egyptian, who, like most everybody else that gets lost, turns out to be a Syrian in the 7th century. The only pseudo people that are floating around, they pin them down in Syria in the 6th or 7th century, so he's a Pseudo-Mercurius. And his homilies, I guess they have a Greek text now. They came down for a long while in... I mean, they have a Syriac text now. They came down for a long while in Greek and in Latin. We have them in English, the 50 spiritual homilies, which make very good reading. They might be called catecheses or conferences, that's what they are.


Right. Then, he says, ex-professo treatments of the ascetic and monastic life. Now, you might put those into two categories. The first is rules, genuine rules. There are a lot of rules of the early fathers that the regula orientalis and so on, the rule of the forefathers, a lot of little rules that we never even knew about for a little while ago, that now have been published, and collected to be found in the library. Most of them are not of very great interest. Only several of them have been very influential and have been built into a tradition now. The rule of Procomius, the rule of Augustine, which is quite something else, because it's written really for clerics living in common land. It's written for canons, but it's been very influential on the Western monastic life. The rules of St. Basil are not really rules, as you'll see when you look at them. They are answers to questions, answers to questions about the community life


that he was organizing, he was directing. And the answers are theological answers taken from the scriptures. So really they're a theological treatise in the form of dialogue or question and answer. They've been called little rules, the longer rules and the shorter rules. We have them in English in that series, The Fathers of the Church. You know that Catholic University of America, The Fathers of the Church series, those purple bargains. And then you have the rule of the master. When we get into the West, you have the rule of the master and the rule of Benedict. And there the tradition sort of sets in the West. There it crystallizes and remains in the West. We don't have a lot of subsequent rules in the West that interest us up until we get up to our commoditous times. And then it's a matter of sort of customs and commentaries on the rule. But the rule of Benedict retains its authority in the West. Then aside from rules, you have these other treatises on the monastic life. And there are also things like letters of St. Basil,


you know, scattered in these traditions, or letters and homilies also. But you have these treatises on the monastic life. And that's really what Basil's so-called long and short rules are. But Cassian stands out there. And Cassian also represents a bridge from East to West. He takes the tradition of the desert and he introduces it to the West, to Southern France, Gaul, in helping to set up a monastic life in that place. He's a very, very crucial author, also because of his influence on St. Benedict. He sort of gives you a bridge between the Desert Fathers and St. Benedict. Sometimes it's very hard to tell whether he's really giving you what the Desert Fathers said, or whether he's putting in his own view of things. You see, he's got the Institutes first, and then the Conferences. The Institutes are a kind of treatise


on the cenobitical life as led in Egypt. And he's always holding Egypt up on a pedestal. The Egyptian monks are really the naples, plus ultra, and monastic life. Everybody else is kind of inferior, and especially the monks in Palestine are a little bit inferior, and the monks in the West are very inferior. In the Institutes he talks about the cenobitical life. Part of it is a discourse, a certain abaprenufius, but most of it is Cassian setting down the customs, the extreme customs. A lot of it's not of that much interest to us because it does remain external. But the habit and the malign office and how they do those things. And there's a treatise on the spirituality. Then in the Conferences, he turns over to the solitary life, and he's got these 24 Conferences. They fall into three groups, and they are meant to be discourses, actually, of the Fathers. They're a marvelous work of literature, actually, these Conferences of Cassian. And Cassian and Germanus


are sort of the straight men in this. You see, they'll go to the Fathers, and they'll say, well, what's the secret of the monastic life? And the Father will shoot out this whole 20-page discourse around the fire. And then he'll say, well, let's have supper and go to bed. And then the next day, another discourse comes out of the Father. So you think there's probably quite a bit of Cassian in there, besides the Desert Father, who are not always that verbose. And they turn out to be marvelous theologians, some of them, you know. For instance, Moses the Robber gives you the basic theology of the monastic life. He was a very reflective old bandit. That's right. They were thinking, and now it comes out. But it's marvelous. It's entertaining, you know, and instructive at the same time. So Cassian is great. Besides, he's a good theologian. Cassian is a good... See, the Desert Fathers are speaking sometimes out of experience,


but it's experience which has been reflected on in a pious way, in a prayerful way, but not in a theological way. And so you get some wild things. You get, like the Father who said, well, I kill my body because it's killing me. Or the weaker you make the body, the stronger you make the soul. You get a lot of things that make you think twice. Or at least you need to think twice otherwise you'll kill yourself. There are a lot of things that need to be integrated theologically. Now, Cassian makes the attempt to do that. Some of the Desert Fathers, too, are remarkable for their discretion like Albert Palmer. See, he's the one. You can tell he's discerning what's needed in this case. He doesn't give you some kind of axiom that's supposed to be good for every occasion. But you can tell he's responding to the question of the moment, telling him what he needs at this moment, where he's at. And those are the most precious things, actually. Because some of the other ones, you know, they'll rev you up, they'll make you enthusiastic, but then they can also send you up to a deep end. Cassian attempts to stand back


and look at the experience of the Desert Monks with discernment, and with a theological center of gravity, with a theological viewpoint. And he succeeds marvelously in doing it, so well that his basic theories of the spiritual life of the last century doesn't tell him. Now, he's not alone, either. Cassian is not alone. First of all, we mentioned that he is taking the experience of the Desert Fathers, but he's been influenced above all by one of them, by the intellectual among the Desert Fathers, it was Heraclius of Conocus. Now, this wasn't realized up until Father Hausser discovered it. Hausser wasn't the first one. There was a Benedictine called Marsili who wrote his thesis on the influence of Evagrius on Cassian, and it's an enormous influence. In other words, the basic notions of Cassian turn out to be a translation into the Latin language and the Western culture


of Evagrius' key notions. So the purity of heart of Cassian turns out to be Evagrius' apatheia, or apatheia, and similarly a bunch of other things. The active life, contemplative life turns out to come not out of Cassian's head or out of the experience of the Desert Fathers, but from Evagrius, and through Evagrius, even from the Greek philosophers, from Plato, and so on. So each of these figures turns out, after they've really unearthed, after they've done their spadework and unearthed the person, he turns out to be just part of a Greek tradition, of a Greek flow, which has certain peaks. Now, Evagrius is an undisputed peak in this whole thing, which is disconcerting, which is bothersome to many people, because Evagrius, it's been said, is more like a Buddhist than a Christian. On Balthasar's behalf. And since father heard, he never took it back. This was about 40 years ago. That article is on mystical theology.


Evagrius is somewhere in monastic studies. It's an interesting article. And Evagrius, he is an out-and-out originist. In fact, he's more of an originist than Origen is. And you know what happened to Origen and the so-called originists. They were condemned up and down. Most of the works of Origen were lost, and Origen didn't appear to have any, and so on, thoroughly, with Evagrius, too. A lot of these things were wiped out in Greek. They found them in Syriac, and then, painstakingly, they translated them back into Greek in the Gnostic centuries, and so on. So, we'll get further into that later. I shouldn't move too far aside. Evagrius is an important figure, but a difficult figure. And as frequently happens, you see, he's a far-out thinker. And somebody comes along and domesticates him. Somebody comes along and brings him back into the Catholic Church. And it's Gashem, you see.


He brings him back into, sort of, the Catholic communion of thought, or into the mainstream of the tradition, after he's gotten out on this kind of Gnostic limb. But it so happens that that Gnostic limb is very precious to us. It's very important. Because he said things with a sharpness. He defined a kind of boundary line. He said things with a sharpness which keeps its power even up to our time, and which now we find does relate us, in some likeness, to the Eastern spiritual traditions. It does open the door to Buddhism. And we discover underneath this kinship, which we've been afraid to look under, of course. So Gashem smooths it out and brings it... He has a better theological center of gravity. For instance, instead of contemplation being the absolutely top value and the goal of a monastic life, it's charity. So he brings it back into the biblical balance, into the biblical center of gravity and equilibrium, which has to be done from time to time.


And that's the work of a theologian. Here you get the tension between the spiritual person, the spiritual writer, and the theologian. But Agrius is a spiritual writer, and who lets himself be carried off by his intuitions. Gashem comes along soberly and with a good Catholic theological sense and brings him back into balance, into perspective. But Gashem, as far as we're concerned, still seems very spiritualist, you know? So there's a further domestication that happens with St. Benedict, where he's sort of fully brought back down to ground and in touch with the sober realities of the West. Then he talks about the works of the historians. Now, that's something that I'm not well in touch with. Those people called Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret of Cyrus.


Most of us have not read their works. And what's more, they're secondary works. They're not primary works. It seems that they recurred to the earlier sources. And often what they pass on to us has got that secondary value. We don't have most of them in English. But we do have Socrates and Sozomen, as you'll see over there, in a big, fat volume from the Post-Messianic period. Theodoret, I couldn't find in English. He's been translated into French in this Swiss-Christian series. Then, the R.B. 1980 goes on to talk about the, very briefly, about the particular little groupings of literature. And the first one he talks about is The Life and the Letters of Anthony. And you'll find more on that in Pfeiffer, of course. Then he goes over to the Wacomian materials. Now, we have The Life of Anthony,


first of all in the Ancient Christian Writers series. That's been around for a long while, probably 20 years. A good translation with footnotes and lots of help. And then there's a new one in that Paulus series, the Western Spirituality series, which in some places, if you look at it, is not so reliable as the other one in some places. It's more of a popular version. But I shouldn't generalize, because I haven't checked it, either. We have The Letters of Anthony in that Fair Acres pamphlet. There are only seven or eight letters. There were supposed to be, I think, they had about a lot more, but some of them were put to the spirits at the most moments. The Wacomian materials. Now, Fr. Armand Verhul, who is the Trappist abbot of a monastery in Canada, is the current authority on Wacomians. And he's done a marvelous work of collecting all of the Wacomian materials


and bringing them together in an English version. This is published by the Cistercian fathers, the Cistercian publications. So, in three volumes, I don't think it's going to run to a fourth volume, in three volumes we have basically the whole Wacomian corpus, which consists of lives of Wacomians. Now, here's another example where you have one life and you think you've got it down, and then you find another one in some other language, some strange language, which has other facts and seems much closer to the original. Somehow it's got that quality of realism and the primitive, raw character to it. And so it's happening with the lives of Wacomians. So, for the Wacomian people, it's not sufficient to read one of them, they have to read five or six of them. Now there are all different ones of them. Then the rules of Wacomians. There are about three successive rules. And with all of this, there's been a tremendous amount of scholarly sweat shed to get their order straightened out,


the influence of one on another, and so on. And then the writings of Wacomians' disciples, Theodore and Osiasis, and so on, all those three of them. Gomias was called the founder of Sanctitism. And he certainly grew up in that. And theologically, he's the person who had the inspiration to consider the monastic life a koinonia, like the koinonia of the Jerusalem community, the koinonia of the Acts of the Apostles, or the First Letter of John. And that's a key insight in monastic tradition. You see, at that point, there crystallizes one of the poles of the theology of the monastic life, the community pole. And the particular Christian character


of monasticism comes out at that moment. That is, what is most specific to our Christian monasticism as compared with other monastic traditions. When the community begins to become seen as a participation of the church, as a local church in itself, and not simply as the context for a person to find his own inner self, but to find the absolute within. Then you have a couple of other histories here, actually, the lousy activities, whether they are a collection of lives or a collection of true stories. Sometimes it's a life, and sometimes it's a striking incident in the life of a father. Usually they're collections of brief things, often very spectacular. And the Historia Monocorum in Egypto,


those two, which are kind of, in a way, twins. There's a third one, which is a later collection, called the Spiritual Meadow, Pratum Spirituale by John Moschus, but that's much later on. The Lousiac history is a bit more fantastic than the other one, I believe, in the Historia Monocorum, but they both abound in miracles, in vagons and stuff. Some things bear the mark of, you know, kind of a historical fact, and others are quite publicist in some ways. Here are the works of St. Basil, the works of Evagrius, Euphronicus, and John Cassian. I talked about Cassian's works. Evagrius' works can be divided into a couple of categories. First of all, there is sort of speculative works, and then his monastic works, or ascetical works. The speculative works, like those Gnostic centuries, are really the things that go wild,


and go very far out, and create a system based on origins, but going even further than origins. A kind of Gnostic Christianity, which was, a lot of that, that was a lot of the reason for the condemnation, actually, of origins of Evagrius, too, in the early days. And then the monastic writings, which are kindred, certainly, but which are much less toxic. You might be able to say that. They've got their dangers in them, but they're much less dubious, and they have a lot of positive value in them. And there are two particularly that are of interest. One is the chapters on prayer, and the other is the so-called practicos. And they fit together in a way, because the practicos is a treatise on the ascetical life. See, the Vita Practica, or Practicae, is the ascetical life, simply. And the chapters on prayer are about the contemplative life. So they're treated with two faces, actually, in monasticism, two slopes of it.


They've been translated into English now by John Ian Bamberg of the Abbot of Yonsei. A nice, most of you are familiar with that edition, probably. A nice edition with a good introduction, lots of notes and so on. It's for the other psychiatrists, and it's in a period of waiting. For a long while, it was thought that those chapters on prayer belonged to somebody else, because it came down for a thousand years more under the name of Nihilus of Sinai, who was an Orthodox person, so that it was permissible to read Nihilus. It wasn't permissible to read the nasty other biographies and so on. They didn't even disappoint us. I don't know that one. It's a really long biography. It's about 30 years old. A lot of tricks like that have appeared. Okay. Maybe that's enough talking about it. We can go over and look at the books and see if you can get your bearings so that we can reach for what you want


when we come to the questions. Any questions about this? I just wanted to sort of pick one of these readings, you know, on behalf of the woman who was blacked out. You know, getting so revved up and then sort of letting yourself down as you read it, because it's really difficult to sort of live this type of thing. I just wanted to sort of keep from getting addicted to these readings and being satisfied from reading them. Yeah, okay. We've got two questions here, and they're both good questions. They're both good questions. And they're connected, okay, because the revving up and so on can be a kind of a romantic binge, all right, of reading about things that we're not able to do and that actually may be damaging to us in two ways. They may make us try to do things that we can't do and therefore fall on our nose. Sometimes it's good for us, but we can't really make a habit of it. And they may also


allow us just to spread out in fantasy without doing anything, okay, so we can sort of get too bad effects from that kind of reading, from too much of it. We need some of it, that's for sure. So what can we do about that? First of all, there's a basic realization that none of those things can sort of be taken straight, that none of those things can just be swallowed and applied to your life without discernment, okay? It can't be taken like a word of Lord or a word to you in some way, okay, or like gospel. That's the basic thing. Then, that has to be built up and complemented gradually. It has to be fleshed out with a kind of a historical understanding so that you begin to see the difference between where they're standing and where we're standing. And also balanced out by reading something on the other side. Now, what do I mean by the other side? Reading, for instance, something that has psychological insight from a contemporary point of view, all right, to give you a ballast


on the other side so that you can't... They keep you in touch with your own reality, keep you in touch with your own experience, with the soil of your own life, so that you can't go up on that, on the cloud, or climb that, on the old peak, okay? So that's important, to find an author who either is writing about those things from a contemporary perspective with common sense. Merton does that sometimes, but not always, because Merton can be very idealistic too, you know, he can center up in the same way. Or simply something, for instance, in the area of psychology, which puts you in touch with your own experience and then lets you be yourself, okay, lets you live that experience without feeling inferior, because you're not somebody else, you know, because you're not Abraham Macarius or somebody else. But it's a gradual process. The first thing is the kind of sense of caution about reading the literature that, wait, look out, it's not, I can't just swallow it and go off on that thing. The same thing is true


even with St. John of the Cross, which is a much later writer and a western writer, the same thing is true of him. If you read St. John of the Cross straight and try to apply it to your life without discernment and without that kind of balance, you can get into a ruinous thing. Because remember also that literature is not life, and that a lot of these things, sometimes there are collections of stunts and collections of extraordinary things, alright, that we read, and we feel that that somehow is the shape of life. And so I'm going to apply that to my own life, that's the way life should be. That's not the way life should be, it's not the way life ever was, it's a collection of selected incidents, which are kind of peaks, which in some way, and some of them, sometimes they're not true, very often they're true, but still they're extraordinary, they're not the everyday moment, so they're not putting us in touch with the reality, so we have to be careful. And then something, some understanding of the way that unreal ideal can form in our own minds, from our own past experience, and the way it can throw us.


If you have a sense of where you're at, you're not in so much danger. The fact that you ask that question, you see, already, means that you have a kind of safeguard in you, against you. If there's a person who doesn't ask that question, you can go up on that thing. And one of the worst things is of course that a person tries to do things he can't really do, and then gets discouraged and gives up. Either that, or he locks himself into a kind of tower of phony spirituality, and stays there. That happens sometimes too. But a community tends to break that down. We have to realize that this is literature. Okay, let's... I put some of those books out on the table over there, so you can just check what's going on, get an idea.