September 9th, 1982, Serial No. 00865

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Monastic Spirituality Set 8 of 12




Here's discourse number 11 on cutting off passionate desires before they become habits of mind.
And this takes us back to one of his favorite themes, you remember?
In fact, he starts out the book of this thing on renunciation, which is basically renunciation of self-will or passions.
And one merges into the other.
The philosophers like to talk about appetite.
Appetite not being just for dinner, but appetite being
our movement towards anything.
So a passion is an appetite, and then the will is an appetite, too.
Remember, I had a business... Remember, first of all, the continuity with the one that I had just before, which was also about the struggle with passions.
And in this one, he's talking about getting them right at the first moment.
At the moment, get them at the roots.
In the other one, he was talking about watchfulness, and then about the struggle itself.
And here, too, set your mind right on looking into your affairs.
It's a business of self-examination.
So he's always talking about the same thing.
Remember also, back on page 88, that sort of ascetical walk where you cut off ten desires between here and there, each time cutting off the incarnation.
and starting out with the inclination of curiosity.
I don't want to spend more than today on this, I don't think.
I'd like to broaden it out a little bit.
With these things it's always good to broaden the context and find out what he's talking about in the terms that we usually think in, okay?
And we were talking about nepsis last time, hence of the roots of thought and of desire.
And we were talking about the other traditions which
cultivate this awareness of the first movements of thought or the first movements of desire.
In the Buddhist tradition especially, the Vipassana tradition.
Also TM, this idea of sort of bubbles of thought that come up from that deep consciousness, which gradually get larger as they move up.
And with TM, I guess it's a question of getting beneath them, just in order to arrive at that state of powerful quiet, as it is in so many of our meditative practices.
And then the practice of guarding of the heart.
Remember also what I read from Hausser last time, this article on the great currents of Eastern spirituality.
This is Dorothea's specialty, this business of self-enunciation.
The fact is that he carries it into the psychological area, but not totally.
See, the hesychasts will take it totally into the psychological area.
But he's on the boundary line between inside and outside, between what's going on in your mind and what's going on in the community.
Whereas the hesychasts get into a solitary context very often, so they don't talk about what's going on outside.
Sometimes they do.
Like John of the Cross, for instance.
John of the Cross is totally interior.
He rarely talks about
relations with others, practical things like that.
Sometimes he does in his maxims and so on, but mostly he's entirely interior.
And so are the hesychasts, where Dorotheus is not.
Then you get other people who are way up on the outside, and all they talk about is what you do, kind of behaviorists in the Master Church.
And Dorotheus is in between.
He's a psychologist of behavior, a kind of behaviorist, a psychologist, something like that.
His teaching agreed completely with that of St.
Basil, a master of masters.
Holiness for St.
Dorotheus, as for Basil and St.
Theodore, the student, consisted above all of utter renunciation of self-will."
Self-will here is desire.
The word will, as a matter of fact, tends to fluctuate.
I think in the will of St.
Benedict is it where it appears in the plural.
Imagine that, self-wills.
The plural in one person, which means it's desires that are talked about.
Nowadays they talk about a pluralism of selves inside of it.
In the old days they would have talked about a pluralism of movements or passions or whatever, or desires.
Now you actually think of different, as if there were different persons inside.
What does this shade into?
What is the context of this?
Word passion is one thing, word concupiscence is something else, which as far as I know comes from Saint Augustine.
He's got the word cupiditas.
Caritas and cupiditas, for him the Christian life is stretched between those two.
Caritas being love, charity as we know it, love of God, agape.
And cupiditas being everything that resists that.
And of course for him it starts out being physical passion, it starts out being sensual desire.
and especially sexually.
But in the end, it's not just that.
In the end, it turns out to be sort of everything that pulls us away from God.
This concept of computer sense has become quite complex, actually, because it starts out looking simple, and then you discover it's not simple.
Is it physical, or is it physical and mental and spiritual, or is it primarily spiritual, and then only physical by consequence?
Is it natural to us, or is it something that comes from sin?
Those are two big questions that never seem to get answered just on one side.
It's natural to us in a way, but when it's natural to us, it's harmless.
But we're never in a completely natural state, that's the trouble.
We're always in the state of God's grace relating to us in some way, coming to us in some way.
And so we're always either following grace or rebelling against it.
And so they talk about the positive function.
First of all, the neutral quality of concubines, and then its positive function.
Remember that conference of Cassian in which he says, were it not for the flesh pulling against the spirit, we couldn't go anywhere, because we wouldn't be able to operate.
We wouldn't be able to grow.
We wouldn't be able to move.
And the Jews, you know, the Hasidim, they talk about the evil urge, and then they talk about the positive function of the evil urge.
And then from another point of view, you can talk about the transformation of passions.
Because the real primitive spiritual people are apt to say, well, cut them off.
It's a matter of abolishing a demonic force in you.
That's the real primitive approach, the Old West approach.
And then the more subtle approach,
And the more sophisticated philosophers will say, no, that belongs to your nature.
That's something positive.
But it's got to be transformed.
It's got to be sublimated or transmuted from that base form in which it is now, that negative form, to a positive form.
And then some others will say, well, it's got to be transmuted, yes.
But even when it's not transformed, it's still positive because of the struggle that it generates in you.
See, that's what Cassian says.
The very struggle against the flesh is your spiritual life.
Paul sounds like that sometimes, too.
Not entirely, but remember, when he talks about the sting that was given in his flesh by God, that's probably not a temptation, because he probably wouldn't be telling his enemies about that.
It's probably an illness or something like that.
That gets me off the subject a little bit.
And sometimes it's interpreted in that way.
So this concupiscence is a complicated thing.
Rahner talks about concupiscence in this very good article he's done in Grades of Christian Perfection, where in the end he says, well, in a way there aren't any, but in another way there are.
He says concupiscence is everything that pulls us back from freedom.
So here we put it in the context of man.
Concupiscence is everything that limits our freedom.
And a lot of people, when they're following their concupiscence, they feel that they're free.
They're free to follow their concupiscence.
They're free to have, you know, whatever they want.
They're free to call it whatever they want.
Essential satisfaction.
He says it's whatever limits our freedom.
So that gets it off the level purely of the body.
And yet you begin to see how the nature is mixed in with the supernatural level, and the natural with the spiritual.
Because what limits our freedom?
The first thing that we think of is the physical limitations.
You know, there's the fact that we're in the flesh, the fact that we're physical bodily beings.
I can't reply because you're too heavy, but our aspirations and desires are immediately limited by physical limitations.
By being myself, just to be on my own.
He says that growth in Christian perfection consists in this, in the progressive existential deepening of our acts.
That phrase may not appear to have been very poetic, but it's a good expression.
The progressive existential deepening of our acts.
Now what he means by that is we get to the center.
We get to the center of our being as we go on.
Now, concupiscence, therefore, would be the thing that keeps us from living from the center of ourselves.
And the existential deepening would mean that as we act, there's more and more of ourself involved.
When you think about yourself as not being free, or you experience relating to somebody whom you don't think is free, there are different ways of seeing that, aren't there?
Different ways of experiencing that, interpreting it.
One thing is that this person's closed, okay?
I can't relate to this person because he's closed.
He's got a wall around himself.
Or in another way, you can say, well, he relates to me in a shallow way, not deeply.
Well, if there's a wall around you, that's probably going to be so.
Or in another way, you can say, well, there's something else operating in this person.
Instead of relating to him, to his real person, to his heart, to his deep self, I'm relating to some mechanism that's going on inside of me.
how it is to talk to somebody who's not really there.
He can't listen to you.
There's some kind of a bug in him that keeps talking to you and monopolizes the conversation.
And sort of, you know, that kind of thing.
All those different ways of looking at this experience of concupiscence when it's still outside of ourselves.
You see, there it's in somebody else.
Today, Ron also talks about intellectual concupiscence.
It's an interesting idea.
He says there are so many words and so many books and so many ideas.
that we can't get it all together.
We can't get into a center and unite it all, integrate it all, intellectually.
And that's what he calls intellectual concubism.
Somebody else might have called it intellectual entropy, or the centrifugal force, that there's just too much to know.
And our world is more than we can integrate.
I'm not too familiar with how he talks about that in detail, so I'll just mention it.
The notion of concupiscence is a further one.
I'll see if there's anything worthwhile reading from this article on it from Sacramentum or New York.
Because you've got a big fluctuation in how people think about this in Christian history.
And it's very significant for spiritual life.
If you get the wrong approach to it, you can get yourself in some bad positions.
You can slow yourself down and give yourself a lot of useless anxiety symptoms.
This is what he says on a natural level.
Man is a being of finite resources, orientated to the infinite, and hence intrinsically affected by an element of resistance and tension between essence and existence, nature and personally, and one might say also spirit and body, spirit and material.
The flesh is the expression of the self-assertion of the whole man against the salvific power of the pneuma, that is the spirit of God.
That's when Paul opposes flesh and spirit, that's what he's saying.
It's not a split between two parts of man.
It looks like that at first sight, but it's not.
That's an important distinction.
Finally, they arrive at this notion.
Concupiscence is the dynamism of man's self-assertion against the supernatural.
You remember when Father Keating was talking about those acceptances?
He was quoting John Donne.
He said, well, we've got four things to accept.
That story of our life is the story of these four questions, accept or not.
One is what?
Is it our acceptance of self?
In other words, our sexuality?
In other words, our death?
The last one, he said, is accepting our spirituality.
Now that's where this contuposence would focus, that's where it would find its center, is in opposing our spirituality, or opposing the supernatural, opposing our ultimate destiny.
But at the same time, it's a negative dynamism opposed to each individual goal of human fulfillment.
It can appear, for instance, as the will to self-preservation raised to the status of
which on a political level manifests itself in the armament race, you know, on the individual level.
It means that you'll wipe out somebody else if you feel threatened.
Or again, there's the will to regression.
There's the will to curl up in the womb once again and avoid life.
The self-destructive death wish.
Various forms of addiction.
And here we get to another topic that's akin to this business of the passions, addiction.
We're very familiar with that notion now because of the drug scene and also because of the prevalence of alcoholism.
You didn't used to hear alcoholism talked about as addiction at that time, but not so much.
It was very prohibitive.
But here's a case in which some other mechanism takes over in a person, in the case of addiction, and their freedom is completely wiped out.
It's a visible thing for us because, well, it's got visible effects.
Whereas with these other passions, you're not so often sure what's going on in the person.
But here you see an external thing, sort of, a chemical thing, taking over and dominating that person.
At least that's the way it works.
So you can see it.
So we can talk about addiction.
But addiction goes much further than that.
Van Kam talked about the addictive personality.
It's a very interesting little book he's got on addictive personality.
It's like we've got these two sides of our character.
Now, one is the sort of structuring side, the side that masters things, the side that thinks and wills and works out our life, carves out a life for itself, constructs a person.
And the other side is the side, the passive side, the receptive side, very, very clever, which sort of directs some thoughts and so on.
And we were talking about the left brain, the right brain last night.
And it's easy to get the wrong slant on this, you know.
and to say, well, what we need is structure, and the other thing is just wishy-washy.
It's not so.
We've got too much of that attitude.
But nevertheless, in our society, there are some people who flip totally over on the other side and become, what he says, or manifest themselves as addictive personalities.
So, on one side, you get a kind of macho, rationalist, technological, structured, power society.
And on the other side, in reaction against that, you get an addictive society.
And it's no accident that the drug culture was the volcanic explosion of the counterculture in the United States.
Even though not all drug use is addiction, obviously.
We don't want to label it in that way.
But that's sort of the way it shapes up.
But this addictive thing goes far beyond drugs and other things.
It's a tendency to get into the soft side, the easy side of our personality, and then to become dominated by something over there where we don't have the grip or the will or starch or the strength anymore to control this thing that's inside of us.
So lots of people have sexual addictions.
In fact, as I said, I think there's a manager that says that the origin of addiction is masturbation.
It's sort of the primordial human addiction, because it's more of a potentiality where it's built in.
The people who have written best about this are Rahner and his disciples, I think, in our time.
He revives the notion, connected with his notion of freedom.
You see, it's the opposite pole of freedom which is central in his thinking.
Something from Martin, that article we picked up so often on the ascetic life experience of God and freedom.
Remember when he talked about freedom from?
He says, freedom is the purpose of the ascetical life.
The purpose, in a sense, of the whole monastic life.
And he says, freedom from this, freedom from that.
Freedom from compulsion.
For example, there are people who don't really like others spontaneously.
They like them out of compulsion.
They're scared not to be nice to them.
I think this is one of Fr.
John E. Udge's big points.
Don't be scared not to be nice.
Be mean and see what happens.
That's what John E. Udge practiced.
This isn't the aim of the spiritual life.
It isn't perfection.
But you have to dare to be nasty once in a while just to find out that you can do it.
So that you can be nice because you really want to and not because you have to.
Be spontaneously nice all the time.
It holds for a lot of things.
Not that we have to try everything.
Asceticism itself can be a compulsion.
Freedom in the realm of the imagination.
Freedom to love what is important.
Stop and think how much time each day you spend being drawn towards what is unimportant.
And this is concupiscence, in a sense.
In other words, the thing opens up all around you.
It's not just a physical desire, but it's all these different forces that pull us apart and pull us down in some way, instead of our being drawn together and drawn upwards and drawn forward, or pushed forward from within.
Think how seldom we live up to the level of what is really worthy of our freedom as sons of God.
A lot of the time we're just carried towards triviality, not bad things, but trivial, stupid, useless things.
Asceticism gives us some freedom from that.
Here, of course, we've got to be careful that we don't over-structure reality by judging everything in terms of priorities and in terms of importance, because sometimes the unimportant things are the most important, and sometimes triviality is a necessity for us, in a sense.
I mean, humor, you know, kidding around and things like that, may not seem important, but they're very important.
Burton himself is a real... Or just relaxing sometimes, or just enjoying life sometimes.
It's not triviality.
But what is triviality?
Triviality is what draws us out of our center into something which doesn't permit us somehow to be ourselves.
See, there are some things that don't seem important, but at least they let you be yourself.
They release you in some way.
In an indirect way, they lead you to the center.
There are things that are important, see, and lead you directly to the center.
There are things that don't seem important, but indirectly lead you to your center, because by relating to them in some way, you can relate from your center.
There are other things that are unimportant, and they're also trivial and trivializing, because they don't let you react from your core.
And a lot of television stuff is typical of that, okay?
Because you've got to be as shallow as that television screen, with a hundredth of an inch of coating on it, in order to...
Freedom from habit.
Freedom from just being automatic.
Asceticism makes us more conscious of what we are doing and why, so that we don't just mechanically do things.
Here he's talking about things that you do, and he's not talking about habits of passion, as Dorotheus is talking about.
So, Merton is a little more subtle.
You see, he's got a more advanced notion of freedom, in a sense.
This is something that's developed in the course of centuries.
It's like man wrestles free, he gradually wriggles free from a kind of theoretical jacket in which he is earlier.
It doesn't necessarily mean he gets any better.
It means he is more subtle in the way that he talks about things and thinks about things.
But he might also get better, you know?
Probably not.
But he gets more subtle.
become free on this kind of level, on this reflective level, more so than the earlier person, or in certain ways that the other doesn't.
Of course, if you practice asceticism wrongly, you get a lot of ascetic mechanical habits, and they don't mean anything anymore, they're just a routine.
Freedom from heedlessness.
One of the greatest things in asceticism is to develop attention, not a-tension, that's what it usually does.
But attention, to be attentive to the truth, to reality.
This means being aware of who we really are and what our relationship with other people is.
Notice the difference here between doing that and attending to every, whether you're doing right or you're wrong at every moment.
See, the danger in Dorothea's system is that you get into minutiae.
Did you really get into watching yourself on trivialities?
For instance, if you carry out that procedure of taking a little walk and checking your curiosity at every moment, I don't know, it would be better, in a way, to be so absorbed with the Lord, or so absorbed with the Word of God, or so, in a way, drawn inwards, that the question never came up.
is talking about.
It's not something you do all the time.
You see there's a difference in approach.
There's a difference in where you put your attention.
And the tendency in our time is more to direct the attention positively rather than to work at it negatively by cutting it off from this and that.
A continual pruning.
OK, now, another thing.
Procedure of the Development of Passions.
You know, there's a kind of a classical scheme in these Eastern writers about how a temptation develops.
I'm going to give you a couple of references and read a little bit of this, but not much.
It's not everybody's cup of tea.
It's kind of detailed, kind of meticulous.
But they single out four or five different stages of temptation.
And I've never been able to decide to what extent it really happens that way.
One reference to this is in Hausser's work on hesychasm, at 79 at the bottom and continuing on page 80.
It's in the part on nepsis.
So you see the kinship of the two subjects also.
And then there's another discussion of this, a kind of convenient one, the glossary of this New Philokalia, the first volume, Under Temptation, page 364, 366.
And then in the index Under Temptation, they give you a citation in bold numerals to the chief places and the fathers in here, where they discuss that thing.
So this is from the glossary.
Now this is kind of a detailed account of what Dorotheus is talking about in a more general and sort of practical way.
The Greek Fathers employ a series, they interpret temptation in two ways, but this is the second way.
First of all, it's a test sent from God.
They're not talking about that.
They're talking about a suggestion from the devil enticing man into sin.
That's the concept of temptation that underlies this.
Using the word in this sense, the Greek Fathers employ a series of technical terms to describe the process of temptation.
And then he gives you a series of references here to the Fathers.
And this is very akin to Vipassana.
It's very akin to those Buddhist meditation things where they single out the various levels of thought.
I don't know whether they start from the outside and go inside the way they're
And notice that this is in a very moral tone, that is, these things are incitements to sin in some way, they're not just thoughts.
There's a difference when you're just trying to check thoughts, okay, when you're just trying to keep your mind or your heart simple.
And the hesychasts get to the point where they're trying to exclude every thought sometimes, every movement of thought, or every image.
But there's a question, you sort of move back and forth between the purification of mind and the purification of the heart in a moral sense, between keeping out sin
or a real temptation in just keeping up thought.
These are early hezekiahs, Harvey.
These are the first pardons.
In fact, they're pre-hezekiahs.
So he refers you to Mark the Ascetic, who seems to be the first one to bring this up.
Clemachus, Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus.
The basic distinction made by these fathers is between the demonic provocation
the incitement, the invitation, the suggestion, and man's ascent.
The first lies outside man's control, while for the second he's morally responsible.
And then he goes through the chief terms.
He's got four of them here, I think.
Sometimes, no, he's got five.
Six stages are pretty complete.
The first is the provocation, which is prospoli in Greek.
The initial incitement to evil.
Mark the Ascetic defines this as an image-free stimulation in the heart and says so long as the provocation is not accompanied by images it doesn't involve man in any guilt.
Now here I really have a problem because if you consider the way the temptation happens in yourself, does it start with an image or does it start with an image-free movement?
An image-free stimulation in the heart.
Which is it?
As a matter of fact, Hausser, treating the same material, he quotes Climacus in the opposite sense.
He says that the Prostrole is defined by the Holy Fathers as the sudden presentation to the soul of a simple conception or of the image of some object.
Well, that seems more likely to me.
It's more familiar to me, at least, that an image comes and the passion attaches to the image.
The heart attaches itself to the image.
Rather than an imageless movement, you can consider that a movement.
Sometimes there can be physical movements, however, or imagery, but that physical thing itself is almost an image in a sense.
It's so concrete, so real, so unspiritual, that it's almost another kind of movement.
But what comes first?
Is it the image or is it the movement?
Then the second stage is the momentary disturbance of paradipismos, of the intellect.
This is the distance between the first one and this is kind of subtle.
This is interior, without any movement or working of bodily passion.
Third, communion, homilia.
It's the same word as we use for a homily.
Homilia, coupling, sunduasmos.
Without, as yet, entirely assenting to the demonic provocation, a man may begin to entertain it, to converse or parley with it, turning it over in his mind pleasurably, yet still hesitating whether or not to act upon it.
At this stage, the provocation is no longer image-free, but has become a logismos, or thought, and man is morally responsible for having allowed this to happen.
Four, asen, sunkatathesis.
Now this is sinful, but not yet outwardly.
Five, prepossession, prolipsis, defined by Mark as the involuntary presence of former sins in the number.
So this is after the fact.
And it predisposes a person to temptation.
Six, passion, or pathos.
If a man does not fight strenuously against a prepossession, it will develop into an evil passion.
So boy, they're really subtle about that.
And then under pathos, we find this.
Pathos or passion.
In Greek, the word signifies literally that which happens to a person or thing, an experience undergone passively, hence an appetite or impulse, such as anger, desire, or jealousy, that violently dominates the soul.
We may think that I'm angry or I'm jealous or something, but they're talking about it as something that happens in the soul.
Now notice that there's already a first step of, what would you call it, a first step of distance that's been taken when you identify something as a passion, okay?
If this is a passion,
Then, in a sense, I'm not doing it, but rather it's doing itself in me, something like that, okay?
If it's a passion, and if you call it that and recognize it as that, you've already taken a first step towards distancing yourself from it and taking away its power.
This too is familiar in the Eastern ways of meditation.
We're already beginning to objectivate it.
Many Greek fathers regard the passions as something intrinsically evil, a disease of the soul.
Other Greek fathers, however, look upon the passions as impulses originally placed in man by God, and so fundamentally good, although at present distorted by sin.
In the second view, then, the passions are to be eradicated, or educated, not eradicated, to be transfigured, not suppressed, to be used positively, not negatively.
Actually, Dorotheus is more in this second view.
second track, but not in such a clear way.
He sees their positivity in him.
Any questions
Set your minds, brothers, on looking into your affairs and don't neglect yourselves.
Such a small neglect may lead us into great danger."
It's almost like a refrain.
He keeps saying that same thing in most of his discourses.
Then he tells a story about somebody who was physically sick and had a fever for seven days and was laid up for 40 days.
You may have experienced the same thing yourself.
Your sickness only lasts a short time, but you're really knocked out of action for much longer than that.
Out of commission.
That's a very familiar experience.
So what he's pointing out is that, look out, because the same thing happens on the spiritual level.
It may be only a short time that you seem to be involved in the sin, or seem to be involved in the passion, but actually it makes you ineffective spiritually for a much longer time.
So it is with the soul.
A man commits a little sin, and what a long time he goes on dripping blood before he dies.
before it's put right.
For bodily weaknesses, we find they're difficult to look at, because the medicine can be inadequate.
But for sin, there are different causes.
There's only one, and that blames on us.
It's our own negligence.
The soul's own unruliness.
For Christ is the doctor of souls, and he knows everything and applies the right remedy for every sickness.
The remedies that he gives here are commandments.
Notice how active, energetic this is as a spirituality.
He doesn't say there's a grace that cures everything.
Or he doesn't talk about the sacraments.
Or he doesn't even talk about faith.
He says there's a commandment.
In other words, against every passion there's something that we've got to do.
And the only reason our passions take over and don't get cured is because we don't do it.
Let us attend to ourselves, brothers, learn self-control while we have time.
So then he gets into this thing about the sense of urgency that we should have because of our approaching death.
How many desire to hear the Word of God and find no one to expound it?
Don't we reflect on this sometimes?
That we've got the Word of God with us all the time, and we're hearing it all the time.
We're sort of saturated with it.
It's running off us.
And how much do we respond?
And there are people outside who have never heard of Christ.
There are people outside who are in such a noisy environment that it's become entirely impenetrable to the world.
So, another reason for self-reproach.
Then this business of uploading.
He gives a story about the father who takes out his disciples and has them pulling up trees.
It's not very ecological, but I suppose it's probably worth it.
Maybe they needed to be pulled up.
Do you think about things like that when you read these stories?
So it is with our evil desires, insofar as they're small to start with, we kind of want to cut them off with ease.
We neglect them, they get big, you can't pull them out.
It's such a simple common sense that we tend to pass it over without much attention.
Then he quotes Psalm 137, and this is a standard thing in monastic tradition.
O daughter of Babylon, blessed is he who repays you as you repaid us.
Blessed is he who dashes your little ones to the ground, to the rock.
Remember Saint Benedict in chapter number four, he says, and when evil thoughts come up you dash them against the rock of Christ as soon as they arise and then confess them to your spiritual father.
You've heard that a hundred times.
And he goes into an etymology of the word and so on.
And his theory here that evil, sin has no existence of its own, it's kind of a parasite.
or a negative being that exists in us because we let ourselves go into it.
Let us learn what we have given, what we have received, what we should desire to get back again.
It's kind of interesting.
We have given our desire and we received back sin.
Okay, it's almost like he's got a physics of the soul.
It's like you give a chunk of yourself, you give a part of yourself, you let part of yourself go, and it gets taken up, it gets infected with the sin.
So we've got to get that back.
Happy the man who gives back this evil, the sin that he's taken on.
I mean, how long ago?
Happy the man who takes your little ones and dashes them against a rock.
A lot of people have a problem with that.
It sounds kind of unfriendly.
Evil thoughts.
That's a standard interpretation of his little ones in the monastic church.
and flings them down on the rock which is Christ.
And the reference there, of course, is to Saint Paul writing about the rock that was Christ, but he's writing in a completely different context than 1 Corinthians.
It's not a matter of resisting temptation.
In other words, he utterly destroys them by taking refuge in Christ.
And that's everywhere in the folklore, taking refuge in Christ.
Sometimes they talk about it as dashing things down against the ground or the rock.
Sometimes they talk about it as running away from lions and climbing a tree.
And this business on self-examination, which he loves to go into specific examples on everything.
Have I spoken ungraciously or had an argument?
Did the MC or another of the brothers correct me?
Of course, he has the MC in Greek.
Canonarches, which means the one probably who tells people what to do in the liturgy.
Correct me and I would not accept it, but contradict him, etc.
and so on.
And he tells another story.
of a man who had a vision.
This vision is kind of familiar in different forms.
Of the angel that comes and sees some of the monks praying while in choir, also in the West, and others inattentive and others are missing, you know, and then there's some kind of mark or some kind of distinction made for each of those groups, indicating the favor of the Lord or the misfavor of the Lord.
In this case, it's a vessel full of holy oil and a little stone cylinder with which you impress some kind of a seal.
I don't know where they did that report.
Some were absent, some were inattentive, some were both present and attentive.
Implicit are they, because they received the whole seal on their heads.
They had somebody wake people up for the vigils.
And you should be grateful towards the waker.
You should not cuss at him or throw anything at him.
He tells about his own story.
when he was the guestmaster, Isaiah.
He tells you that the camel drivers would come at night and he would attend to them.
And then he wouldn't be able to wake up.
And the waker would come and he would say, like one in a dream, God love you and reward you, Father.
You called and I am coming.
And then he'd fall asleep.
And then he got two of the brothers to
hold him up, to wake him up for the oracles, to stop him.
He was really zealous.
That's what he's trying to teach all the time, is this zeal that he has, you know, this spiritual determination, this energy.
He's got many different names for it.
So examine yourself, brothers and sisters, and count your thoughts, and if you did nine last week, maybe this week you won't have to wait.
And he's got another story, he's got a lot of stories about when he was in the Synodium,
And this one, the brothers started going to him for spiritual direction.
The abbot agreed.
I didn't look up the word abbot to see if that's what he's got in the Greek.
But you see, this is a case in which the superior was not the spiritual father of the monks.
The monks had confidence in Dorotheus, and so he entrusted that job to him.
And then this funny story about the monk who was stealing and eating
It's going to happen more and more around here if we start walking on the road.
Why do you do it?
And so Dorotheus is enormously, what do you call it, compassionate and conciliatory to this guy.
He tells him, prepares the cook to give him things, and then he himself provides for him.
And he keeps stealing.
And he's got a kleptomania.
He's feeding it to the donkey.
He's not even eating it himself.
Well, it's a different kind of addiction, because he takes more than he needs.
The physical addiction would mean that he would stuff himself.
He couldn't stop eating, but he's got an addiction to stealing.
They call it kleptomania.
I don't know why it arises, but I bet his people have been deprived when they were young.
So the only way to get anything is to steal it.
about not having or not getting, probably respond to that way, to ensure their own security.
You see then what happens when a man gets the habit of giving in to his instinctive urges.
His soul will be full of rotten food.
He has stolen scraps of bread, dates, figs, onions, anything else he could lay his hands on.
All this he hid, some under his bed, some in other places.
And at last, he didn't know what to do with it, so he went out and gave it to the house.
It was well said by Abbot Nistro, seasoned cashier, that if a man is pulled down and carried off by a passion, he becomes a slave of that passion.
And he goes back to that example.
We speak of virtue bringing rest to the soul and vice bringing punishment.
Why the difference?
Now, here again we get to that kind of ontology, that kind of physics of the soul.
That virtue is according to the nature of the soul.
This is a Greek notion and a beautiful notion, actually.
It should be more ours.
You see, a lot of our troubles come from the fact of thinking that virtue is unnatural, from stretching that difference between the natural and the supernatural.
If we think of virtue as natural to the soul, then we're moving in the direction of our deepest gravity when we are virtuous, when we are good, when we are advancing spiritually.
If we think of virtue as something that has to almost war against the soul, then we're in trouble.
It's a funny thing the way we pull away from that in the West.
But the pivot, the turning point is around Saint Augustine.
And I'll read something from this Friday's.
This book, Augustine the Theologian by Tassel is quite a good book, I think.
It's a very analytical book about, a very thoughtful book about the theology of Augustine.
And here he's talking about the Pelagian controversy, okay?
And this is what it was about.
Just in a nutshell here.
The question then is whether the possibility of leading a righteous life free from sin belongs inseparably and inemissively, inemissively means you can't lose it, to man's nature.
To Pelagius it does, to Augustine it does not.
On the contrary, man's nature is susceptible of a change for the worse.
Nature can be perverted.
So there's the basic question.
Does your nature get knocked out of its true character to such an extent that it's fundamentally perverted, or do you always have the freedom to do good and to be good?
And that's the turn in the road, you know, where the West tends to go up in the direction that nature is fundamentally out of whack.
And then sooner or later what happens is
that man sort of gives up over on that side, and about 12 centuries later, winds up doing everything for himself on the other side, which is the secular side, okay?
In other words, what he can do is lose confidence in his own transcendent nature, his own inner self, his own contemplative self, or his own spiritual self, that spiritual center,
And as a result of that, pull outside into the world and build a city out there in which he then gains confidence in himself.
But you see, on the level not of spiritual virtue, but the level of worldly activity, or the level of rational knowledge, that kind of thing.
You don't have to do that if you don't want to.
It's a kind of theory.
I think in some way it happens.
There was this problem of the people who came and said that you don't really need special grace to obey God, to lead a virtuous life, to become perfect.
All you need is the ordinary grace that almost everybody has, plus good will.
The Orthodox tend to... See, they didn't have this problem with Pelagians.
They didn't have to fight him.
And so, they never had to push that hard the weakness of man's nature, okay?
This happened in the West.
But also, it's not as simple as that, because there are all sorts of other reasons underneath, historically, why we moved in that direction.
One shouldn't pin it all on this.
This is just a point where it becomes kind of clear.
The Pelagian battle.
If you read St.
Paul, see, you can read different parts of St.
Paul and you get a different impression.
If you read Romans 7, you get this battle between the flesh and the spirit, you know, and Augustine was very familiar with that because of his own life.
And also remember that he had been a Manichean for quite a long while.
But then you get into Romans 8, and you get into the rest, and it's a completely positive change, it's a transformation, a new creation of the human being, okay?
A new creation.
But that new creation gets very often forgotten.
Very often forgotten.
Especially in our experience.
A person has never felt a recreation of that time and had to fight just to be good all his life, and maybe not been able to, but it's hard to persuade.
So the West moves in the direction of our human experience, a lot of which is bound to be painful, negative,
some kind of struggle, and sinful also.
Whereas the East tends to stay in that kind of original light, you know, in which virtue... I don't know if there's anything else in here worth reading.
And that's where this notion of concupiscence gets made quite precise.
Also, the notion of nature is very important at that point.
What do you mean by your nature?
Is it your nature in sort of an ideal form, say, as Adam was, or is it your nature after sin, or is it your nature after it's been restored by grace?
And is there such a thing as grace without nature?
Is there a state of perfect nature where grace is not?
The tendency now is to say, no, there never is and there never was.
Then he's got his business about health and sickness again.
Notice the symmetry here.
He goes back to something very similar to what he started out with.
Remember the fellow that was sick for seven days and then wasn't able to operate for 40 years.
We take up a statement by being, when we do, it's good.
We generate for ourselves a habit of virtue.
We take up a state proper to our nature.
We return to a state of health which belongs to us.
As disease dies, we recover the normal reactions that I consider.
See, St.
Augustine might consider that this was pretty far over towards Pelagius, because it seems a little easy for him.
In the case of vice, it's entirely different.
By doing repeatedly what is evil, we acquire a habit which is foreign to us, something unnatural.
We put ourselves, as it were, into a permanent state of pestilential sickness, so that we can no longer be healed without many tears, which have the power to attract Christ's compassion to us.
That's beautiful.
That optimism really puts you in a good position to live.
It puts you in a position of strength, because you're moving towards your strength, not moving away from your strength.
You're not stretching yourself out.
You're moving towards your own center.
As you obey God.
We find the same sort of thing in Baudelaire's hypnosis.
He's got this funny old physiology.
There are certain foods which generate a certain humor.
Remember there were four humors?
And this turns into those four personality types.
The choleric, the sanguine, the melancholic, and the pragmatic.
So, probably there were four types of food.
One makes a certain humor in the body, a certain liquid in the body.
And when you get too much of that, you're in trouble.
You get too much of one kind, you get depressed.
You get too much of another kind, you get hungry.
So cabbage and lentils cause melancholy.
By eating such foods once or twice, the body generates a certain quantity of the fluid which predisposes to melancholy.
If you eat a lot of it, the body becomes full of this fluid.
So it is with the soul.
If a man continues sinning, he gets into a bad condition.
It's this which we're mentioning.
So it may not be true in regards to cabbage, but it's true certainly in regard to sin, in regard to passion, in regard to what we do.
Remember, Jesus says, not what comes into their body, into a man's body, but what comes out of a man.
Dorotheus is talking about what comes out of a man.
which works in a different way than what comes into our mind in the sense of food, in the sense of care.
He's not interested in it.
Clean or unclean.
But there's a certain analogy, a certain analogy.
In other words, people who get fixed on the food thing, there's an analogy.
It's a kind of a magical thing of exterior things.
Somebody pointed out, it gets very close to the Jewish purification obsession, that there are certain things that are healthy for you and certain things that are sin.
It's sin if it does that.
One other thing.
Sometimes somebody has an ingrained tendency towards one particular passion.
If he indulges that passion only once, there is an immediate danger that it will turn into a fixed habit.
We have one very familiar form of this.
If an alcoholic takes one drink, he can go crazy.
He'd rather be fixed.
Then he gives a bodily example which, again, may not convince us that much.
If an eagle gets out of the snare except for one claw which remains caught in the net, it has lost all its power to escape.
It's a powerful example.
John of the Cross has the example of the bird which is held by only a thread, not a rope, but a thread, and it still can't fly.
And Dorotheus carries it further.
Can the hunter not strike it down whenever he pleases?
So it is with the soul.
If it has one passion set into a bad habit, the enemy at any moment, he pleases, breaks it down.
So that passion is an instrument that he can use.
Anyhow, there's a truth in this.
There's a thing that if we've got, if we've got one thing that keeps us from the freedom of obeying God and the freedom of relating to God, that one thing is going to hold us down and hold us back in some way.
I don't know how to, you can only use images, I guess, for that.
But that's the importance of detachment.
It's not as if one part of the soul is paralyzed by one fault, and another part of the soul is weakened by another fault, and so you get a sort of average.
It's not an average at all.
The fact is that if we're really stuck on anything, that's going to hold us back.
Because we're stuck, really, and we're all one.
We're all one thing.
And it's the tension, the pull, the dualism between freedom in God and un-freedom, captivity, or self-love in other words.
Love and self-love, love versus self-love, large love and small love.
Buddha talked about big mind and small mind, similar things.
This is why I'm always telling you not to allow a passion to harden into a habit.
Passion is pathos.
Habit is hexus.
So sometimes we're going to get beat and sometimes we'll fall.
But let us quickly get up again and become weeping in the sight of God's goodness.
Just follow Him.
You can tell where He is.
Okay, any questions on that?
Next time we'll go on with the next one.
Don't be put off by the title, it's probably the same.
Where are people with problems with Islam?
So I invite you to think of a subject to write a little paper on, something in connection.