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Cassian Institute

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At the last conference of Gershwin, before I forget it, next time, if we finish listening today, next time let's go back and do that conference 12, which you don't have a translation of. What's the one on chastity? We'll try to do something on the Latin, that way we'll have done them all, deserve a certain feeling of satisfaction. And we can go back to the Institutes. And since you have the Institutes in your book you can start reading them. Actually, you'll find that books 1 through 4 are pretty brief. You can read through them without too much trouble. It's not all of equal value in the Institutes. A lot of it's on external things. So you can go through that with attention. But when you get to book 4, then that's the one that contains the more weighty spiritual part. So we'll do conference 12, and then we'll go back to the Institutes and cover them rather briefly. We won't give them anything like the concentrated attention we gave to the conferences.


Just trying to pick out the high spots. Now, conference 24, which closes the conferences of Gershwin, in a way sums up the whole thing. It's intended to do that. And so, as I said before, we find recollections of many of the earlier conferences, especially the first ten, which formed a kind of systematic treatise on the spiritual life. So we found reflections of number one, number two, on purity of heart and on discretion. We're going to find a recollection of number four here, on the combat of the flesh and the spirit, and some others too. We've gotten through chapter 13 here. And you remember that the fact that this conference is attributed to Abraham is important, because Gershwin is sort of recapitulating the whole spiritual journey. Now, Abraham is the patriarch in the Old Testament, who in some way typifies a monastic vocation. We found this in conference three, on the three renunciations.


Remember, Abraham is the one that God told to go out and leave his country and his father's house and everything. And he promised him a new country, and he promised him this offspring. Remember, he said, your offspring is going to be like the sands of the sea and like the stars of the sky. You won't be able to count them. And I'm giving you a land which you don't know yet. I'm going to lead you into it. Now, this, for Cassian, is the pattern for the monastic life. And so, when we read those Old Testament passages, usually we pass right over them. We don't see the depth that the father saw in them. But they open up to you as you stay with them and you go back to them, they open up to you and you see a vast significance in them. Like this passage of Abraham, it's really worth meditating on. Even though those are things that we can't break into sort of by force. We have to gradually soak them up. But Cassian is a doorway into that significance, for instance, of Abraham. And how, remember, Abraham is the father of the faithful. He's the first Jew. I mean, he's a Jew before the Jewish nation, before Moses and the Exodus.


And the father of all believers. And especially he's seen as the father of monks because he was a pilgrim like that. Had to go out of his country. And so the monk is, what's he doing? He's going out of this world, in a sense. Going out of this world into God. Rather going out of the old man, out of the old world, into the new man in the new world, into the new creation which Christ brings. And it's an exodus, you see. So these things all tie together. And being an exodus, it also inserts itself into the Paschal mystery of Jesus, right? It's a death and a resurrection. So the title of this conference, De Mortificazione, or a mortification, well, remember the word mortification comes from the word mort, mort is death. So the idea is passing through this death so that one may find a new life, a new creation, a resurrection. Or the promised land in terms of Abraham and the exodus. And so Passion's going to end up this last conference of his with a long chapter on the hundredfold. The hundredfold which is the reward promised to the one who gives up everything.


He who gives up sister, brother, wife, children, mother for my sake, for the sake of the kingdom shall receive a hundredfold already in this life and then life eternal. So this hundredfold is the reward which the monk begins to enjoy right here. So he begins to come into the promised land, he crosses the desert, you see, he goes out of his old country, crosses the desert, comes into the promised land and begins to taste the fruits of the promised land already in his life. That's what Passion is saying. And we'll find when we get towards the end of that last chapter how it ties in. And that that passage from Saint Matthew where he says anyone who gives up lands, sister, mother, brother, for my sake, will receive a hundredfold. How that ties into Abraham's vocation. And Abraham is the one, he has the name of Abraham the Patriarch. Abba Abraham was giving this conference. So Passion's a bit of an artist as well as being a theologian. Okay, you remember the question which was posed at the outset of this conference


by Gashin and Germanus, which seems like an unworthy question. Should we go home, and not just home to their earlier monastery, but should we go home and live near our relatives and be monks there? And they give all these good reasons which we don't need to recapitulate. They're going to convert everybody and people will help them, they won't have to work, they'll be taken care of and so on. Abraham knocks down all their reasons. He says, see, because this is a fundamental threat to the monastic life, to leave the desert and go back to the comfortable world, go back home. Go back with your family, that's the most comfortable world. You can sort of give up the journey the pilgrim mentioned, go back to what is familiar and what is comfortable. And under good pretext, see, there are always good pretexts. So this is a real threat to the monastic vocation. And so Abraham, carrying the name of the great patriarch, the great pilgrim, fends off this threat in his discourse with Gashin and Germanus. And the question of work came up.


You remember what kind of work the monks should do. They should live in horrible places where you can't cultivate, so that they won't be out in the open air getting all distracted. They should stay in their cells. And then he talks about centering on the love of God, the beautiful image of a man who is building the arch and has to keep with his compasses, reorienting himself from the center. And he says the center is the love of God. And this is all connected with this notion of recollection and of somehow remaining recollected, having your thoughts collected, and your thoughts collected into this one point, the central point of the love of God or the memory of God or the thought of God or the name of God, whatever you want to call it. But for that, he says, this kind of solitude and remaining within the cell is necessary. So you get a kind of concentricity of the cell and the heart and remaining within the heart. And the center, which is the love of God and the heart, is it with the love of God being the center of the heart and the heart being kept within itself, the thoughts kept in the heart by remaining in the cell.


So the external place and all those conditions are important. Then, why not let our relatives supply us with what we need? Because it's distracting to work. And then he illustrates how work is a primary demand of the monastic life and we shouldn't shirk it. Solitude is not enough. Without work, he says, it's simply idleness. Okay, we're ready to continue with another question now in Chapter 14. Germania says, Okay, you've convinced us now, but how did our error come up? Why is it that these thoughts tempt us to give up the monastic life and to go back home and try and live it in an easy way? So Abraham now gets into spiritual psychology, which may be a little surprising at this point. We encountered this in some of the earlier conferences


where he was talking about the eight evil thoughts. That's Conference 5. And also it comes up in the Institutes. You've got about seven or eight conferences in the Institutes on the evil thoughts taken individually, Books 5 through 12, and then recapitulated in one chapter earlier in the conferences. Now, there's this whole theory of how the soul is structured and what are its main temptations. And it seems that at this point, Abraham brings it to a clearer unity than he did in the earlier conference. It was a little confusing. He talked about the eight evil thoughts, but he didn't illustrate so clearly how they all are drawn into three and then into one, sort of. He's got a more synthetic point of view right here. I hadn't read this before, at least not for a long time, and so I didn't realize how synthetic he was. Let's read it, and then we can refer back to the earlier treatment. So Abraham sets out to give him a lesson here in Spiritual Psychology or Anthropology, Chapter 15.


He says, For all falsehoods, one source and origin. But different names are assigned to the passions and corruptions in accordance with the character of that part or member which has been affected. Okay, I don't think he said that before. There's one source, there's one reason, there's one fundamental sinful tendency which pulls man down and which affects him. And he compares it to a disease. And he's got some early medical theory that there's one kind of humor or something in the body that makes you sick. And if it's your head, you call it a headache. And if it's in your feet, you call it pedagogy. If it's in your eyes, you call it ophthalmia or something like that. It's always fundamentally the same thing. Certainly doctors usually would not hold to something like that. And yet nowadays I think there's more movement in that direction when you talk about holistic medicine. You talk about the body and the soul as being the whole, sort of. So if the soul is weighed down, the body is going to express it in some way. That sort of thing.


Which means that there is a kind of, what would you say, convertibility between different afflictions that you have. Like there are psychologists who write that if you are unable to cope with life, you're either going to express it by neurosis or you're going to express it psychosomatically, all right, or by some addiction, something like that. There's this Dr. Glasser, he's a reality therapy man. And he says you've got about four ways of escaping or of expressing an inadequate response to life. And one of them will be a kind of addiction, like alcoholism. Another will be neurosis, will be going around in your own mind. Another one will simply be violence, taking it out on somebody else. And another one will be psychosomatic, like having heart trouble or all kinds of things. It depends on the particular tendency you have. So there's that unitive tendency once again in medicine that comes in,


even uniting the body and the soul. So there may be something that Abba Abraham says. But at any rate, he says, and now he picks up the Greek psychology which comes all the way from Plato and maybe earlier, down the bottom of the column there. As some very wise men have laid down that its powers are threefold, either what is logikon, that is logical we would say, or logikon goes to logos. Logos means word, but for the Greek it also means reason. It's your thinking power. It's not only the word that you say, not only the concept that you think, but it's the thinking power itself. Logikon, that would be the rational faculty or the faculty of intelligence. The thumikon or thumon, thumikon comes from thumos or anger. But anger here not in the narrow sense. It also means will, you see. It also means energy, power, force, strength. Not just rage and fury. And thirdly, the epithumeticon or subject to desire,


the concupiscible, as the scholastics call it. So you've got the irascible, which is the faculty. If you think of it as the faculty of anger, it's the easiest way to remember it. It's will, energy, power to do something. Power also to combat. And the epithumeticon, which is the concupiscible, as they say, or the faculty of desire, of love, of delectation. And this anthropology really goes way back. You even find it in Buddhism. You even find it reflected in the way the Buddhists talk about the soul. Because they say that man's got three fundamental sins or failings. Ignorance, you see, affecting the rational, the intelligent. Hatred, affecting the irascible, you see. And greed, which is the fault of the concupiscible. So you've got the same thing over in the East, you see. Even though there are probably other species over there.


I was struck when I saw that parallel. So this comes right down through the scholastics, through St. Thomas and so on. This threefold division of man. And so it's pre-Christian. It was in Plato's Republic, which I grabbed today, intending to find it, but I didn't track it down. I didn't have time. Now, Plato in the Republic compares these three faculties of the mind to the three divisions of people in the nation. Now, I think the rational would be the philosopher, and the irascible certainly would be the soldier. The concupiscible, I don't know who that is. Maybe it's the businessman. It's not just the poet, because you don't have a whole... You wrote about poets, but you don't have a whole class of... major class of poets in the Republic. I don't have the reference right now, so I can't look it up.


So he's consistent, you see, bringing his psychology right into his politics, into his sociology. It's in Book 4 of the Republic somewhere. And it's in Evagrius, too. I didn't find it in the Practicos, but it's in other works of Evagrius, probably the ones that we don't have in English translation. It's very much in Maximus the Confessor. That's the fundamental pattern of his psychology in the centuries on charity. And he makes beautiful use of it, really. I may have read you something from that before. I didn't have time to get the references for them either. Every once in a while, this turns up, but there are three parts to the soul. You work against the false of the rational part by prayer, he says.


You purify that by prayer, by the spiritual reading, too. You purify the irascible by charity, by love. And you purify the concapiscible by self-restraint. So you see that the irascible and the concapiscible work against one another. You see, with your will, you curb your appetite, and with the appetite of, what would you call it, sympathy, love, affection, you soften the will, you see. So you get a kind of integration. In fact, you can look at it as an integration of the masculine and feminine parts of man, ultimately, under the influence of God, of the Holy Spirit, and of intelligence. So it's an interesting pattern. You've even got a couple of modern psychologists who follow in the track of the Thomists and still use that model for man, the appetite and the will, the two sides. So it's really something that's in us. You even find, if you look at the modern psychologists,


you tend to find a certain alignment in that respect. You get somebody like Freud basing everything on the concapiscible, basing everything on the sexual instinct and libido. And then Adler comes along and he bases everything on the will to power, which is the other side, which is the irascible, in a sense, an inferiority feeling, some competition, and that sort of thing. And then, of course, finally somebody comes along and rescues the rational, like Frankl, Victor Frankl, with his logotherapy. But nobody's come along to put the jigsaw puzzle together yet. Okay, I won't spend time trying to find the exact place. I've always been fascinated by the threefold psychology, also because it suggests, of course, the image of God and man, the Trinitarian image of God and man, so you can play with that idea if you want to.


And then he goes down and he does something that he didn't do in the earlier conference. He breaks down all of the evil thoughts, the passions, into the ones that afflict these three parts, or three dimensions of the soul. Now, he didn't do that kind of a classification before. So here he's really being very synthetic. You see, he said that everything comes from one tendency, first of all, and then he says everything can be placed according to it's attaching itself to these three parts, these three dimensions of the soul. Very systematic. I forgot to mention before that Maximus now, Maximus, remember, is another student of Evagrius. He's another one who sort of Christianizes Evagrius. And he says that everything comes from one evil tendency, which he calls philoutia, which is love of self, self-love, which he says is an irrational love for the body. That's the way he defines it. And he says from that, it's the mother of all devices, everything else comes out of it.


If the plague of sin has infested its rational parts, it will produce the sins of vainglory, conceit, envy, pride, presumption, strife, and heresy. If it's wounded the irascible feelings, it will give birth to rage, impatience, the anger, selfliness, achitty, achitty is the original, abusal, anemity, and cruelty. If it's affected that part which is subject to desire, it will be the parent of gluttony, fornication, covetousness, avarice, obnoxious, and earthly desires. So, do you see how these line up according to the three parts of the soul? Now, he's saying that if your rational part is diseased, you're going to have a wrong idea of yourself. There's going to be a kind of inflation there probably, which will result in vainglory, conceit. And since you've got a wrong idea of yourself, you're going to be competing with others. And so, envy, pride, presumption, strife, and heresy. Heresy being both a thing that is in the intelligence,


and also a defense or a vindication of this individual self, in other words, the ego-centered self. So, it has a double tie-in with the rational part of it. It's sort of the brain running away with the whole person, with the whole thing. And so, it makes it a rent in the church. Now, a lot of those things St. Paul talks about under the heading of the, what does he call them? The works of the flesh, in Galatians chapter 5. The works of the flesh. That may surprise you, because they're not carnal at all, in the sense of pertaining to bodily passion. No, they're ego-centered, just egoistic passions, egoistic tendencies, impulses. But they're not fleshly directly. But he calls them the works of the flesh, which gives you an insight into what St. Paul means by the flesh. It's just man divorced from his spirit, divorced from the Holy Spirit and following his own spirit. So, it's particularly interesting that relation of some of those things


to the rational part of man. When man puffs himself up and doesn't know his own place anymore, he doesn't know his own place in the sense of his littleness, in the sense of his nothingness before God, and therefore he's able to become puffed up and sort of consider himself to be the center of pride and glory. He doesn't know God, and so he himself tends to swell up like a balloon. On the other hand, he doesn't know himself in God, he doesn't know his true self, he doesn't know his true dignity, and so he's afraid of not existing, and so he becomes envious. So, he tends to become overshadowed by other people and to envy them because he doesn't know his own glory, as it were. So, it's a matter of ignorance, you see. You can say pride is ignorance, glory is ignorance, envy is ignorance. You can put all of them together. And heresy, obviously, is ignorance. Okay.


Now, the irascible feelings, rage or anger, impatience, sulkiness. Now, those three are fairly, and maybe cruelty too, are fairly obvious, okay? Because those are the positive exaggerations or positive excesses of the irascible, of the will, of anger. Now, some people would include pride there, you see, because pride is also a kind of movement in that direction. These things are not quite as simple and neat as they look at casually. But what about fusillanimity and achedia? What are those? Well, you might say that achedia is a kind of exasperation with the monastic life and with God, in a sense, which is also a form of anger. Or you could say that it's a weariness which is the excess on the other side. You see, every virtue, they say, classically, is a mean, and it can go off by excess or by defect, right? So the excess, for instance, of courage would be rashness, okay?


It would be to expose yourself to danger for stupid reasons, for no reasons. Whereas the defect would be cowardice, you see? So here you've got your excess of the irascible appetite, which is anger and impatience and so on. And you've got your defect, which could be either achedia or fusillanimity. Fusillanimity literally means small-souledness. It's the opposite of magnanimity. It's the opposite of generosity or courage, you see, or great-heartedness. It's small-heartedness. So it's a defect of the irascible. Or you could say weak-willedness, something like that, you see? Or cowardice. Cowardice would be maybe a more familiar term for us. And then the ones for the kind perpissible, which all seem to be in the direction of excess, not in the direction of too little. We could ask ourselves about that, whether there isn't...


Can there be a defect on that side with respect to the kind perpissible on the side of lack rather than of excess, if we think about that? Maybe not so much towards things, because you don't find too many people who don't have any appetite and so they get undernourished and things like that. But is it possible to say that in the monastic life you can have an apathy which is spiritually destructive? Now, this is particularly with respect to other people and a lack of affection, for instance. And also, however, with respect to God, because it tends to go all around the sphere. It doesn't tend just to be in one area. If a person's affective faculties are underdeveloped towards other people, they're likely not to be developed towards God either, or towards much of anything else. You see what I mean? And that happens in the monastic life, because the wrong kind of mortification, or carried just without balance,


tends to dry up a person's affections. And so he becomes less than human and he doesn't know why. And I think that's happened very often in recent times. Martin was one who wrote quite a bit about that sort of thing. Not always in those terms. But there's a danger of becoming less than human, you see, by also the underdevelopment of the, what would you call it, the emotional, the affective. Eddie Inslee was here a while ago. Remember, he zeroed in particularly on that. That's his thing, more or less. He's got a point. Okay. Any questions or remarks about that business, that theory? It's handy to know that, because you meet up with it everywhere, in the Christian fathers, that sort of psychology. And even in scholastic theology, if you study St. Thomas and so on. It seems like it's a necessary thing, as long as you bring it all back together.


I have difficulty dividing it, because I don't see the clear division. Yes. It's necessary if you bring it all together. Yes, as Maritime says, you divide in order to unite. Maybe that's not properly applied, but the idea is you analyze something in order to see it more clearly, and in order to see every part of it, and see its interior relationships. And then you forget the analysis, and let it snap back together and just be. But somehow the analysis helps us to penetrate. Okay. This reminds me of the types of temperament. Is there any connection? The melancholic and so on? Yes, the sanguine, the melancholic, and some other... I've never seen a correlation made, but you might be able to make one. For instance, what we were just saying about a defect in the contrapissible, that would be the phlegmatic temperament, right? Who also might be defective as far as the irascible is concerned. That is, his energy level is inadequate. You also might be able to tie it up


with something like Jung's personality. See, you've got a whole... there's a whole tradition of different ways of arranging personalities and temperaments and so on. And to say that any particular one of them would match up with this, I'd have to look into it first. There's something that hadn't come to mind. This is something that's present in everybody, but clearly you're going to have people who incline more in one of these directions than in the others, and that will form a type of personality, which very well might come up in one of those personality schemes, you see. Very well. For instance, Jung's got his feeling type, okay? Now, the feeling type is going to be inclined in the direction of the contrapissible, isn't it? And he's got his thinking type. Well, the thinking type is going to be inclined more in the direction of the rational, and perhaps also of the irascible, because the thinking type tends to be a will type, too. The rational type tends to be sort of a will and...


what do you call it? Operating type, too. So, it'd be interesting to look into that. And, of course, you're going to find, even way back, I'll let you in Plato, if you look in Plato, you're going to find him breaking down men into those types. In other words, he's going to be arranging personality types according to that pattern, just like he arranges the classes of society, like the soldiers and the philosophers and so on. He's going to be doing probably the same thing with the men who go astray in one direction or another, or who, just by personality, rather than by profession or vocation, match up with that. The most thorough treatment of this I ever found is in a book by Thunberg, which is a suede on Maximus the Confessor. My goodness, pages and pages, it goes back into the Greek philosophy, and then the fathers, in great detail,


try to put it all together, just as background for Maximus. Okay, is there anything else in there? Chapter 16. So, if you want to discover the source and origin of this fault that you're talking about, which is this desire to go back, you know, and live a comfortable monastic life at home, he says it's to be found in the rational part of your mind, because your mind, it's motivated mostly by presumption in vainglory. So he's sort of pinning down their problem to one tendency, and that is the tendency to say, well, we've learned the monastic life, now we can go back and teach it, and we'll achieve many conversions and so on in our own country. And he says that's a defect of the rational. It's a wrong estimate of yourselves. Because you need a teacher,


you're not ready to teach for these things. In chapter 17 he says, the first part to be tempted and to fall is the weakest part, and the remedy, therefore, has to be applied to that weakest, exposed, vulnerable member, which he says in your case is the rational, and the remedy for that is humility. Humility. Humility which leads to submitting oneself to a teacher, to a spiritual father. We don't like to go into the detail of his illustrations of that. He goes into... The example of Balaam there is obscure. People are always bringing Balaam up. Saint Peter does it too in his letter, remember? And I can never see why they're so hard on poor Balaam. I always thought he was kind of a sympathetic character. Remember, he's the sort of freelance prophet that the king goes out to hire in order to curse Israel, and he rides over on his donkey. He doesn't want to do it at first either, you know,


and he only goes along because God tells him to. And then he gets all of this... all of this punishment dumped on him. I don't know why. The Jews are always cursing Balaam. But I think that he must be in some other books that we've lost, you see. Because if you look up that reference there, in Numbers 24, you won't find this plot on the part of Balaam against the Israelites. He's the one who's donkey, remember? He was confronted in the... He said, what Yahweh gives me to say. So he blessed him. He said, Fair and bright are the tents of Israel, you know. And so the king said, I brought you here to curse him, and here are your blessings. He said, can I say anything that Yahweh... except what Yahweh tells me to. So he did all right, I think. But the Jews are always... And Saint Peter, my goodness. There's some writing there that we've lost. That's behind that, I'm sure. And then he talks about the temptations of Jesus in the desert, and he says that the devil


tempted Jesus by those three faculties, you see, to those three dimensions. The desiring one is obvious, that is, turn these stones into bread, is hunger. Tempting him by gluttony. The others are not quite so obvious. The part subject to wrath when he tried to incite him to seek the power of the present life in the kingdoms of this world, well, that one you could... you could argue about that one. Because wrath you can connect, you see, with will and power, certainly, OK? But you can connect that... See, that sounds much more like pride, which pertains to the rational part, according to Habakkuk. And the rational part, when he said, if you're the son of God, cast yourself down from hence. Well, you could argue that one too. But it certainly is irrational, and it certainly is a display of vainglory, I suppose you'd say. But he was defeated on all three. All three counts.


Now, that ends that discussion, and Germanus asks another question. He says, well, if we go home, there'll be greater silence there, because here in the desert other monks are always coming to visit us, and we have no time for ourselves at all for prayer. And he says, there aren't any monks where we come from, and so that won't happen. So you can see that he's really... His rational part is somewhat... somewhat affected. So Abraham doesn't have any problem with that one. He uses the occasion to... to say some other things. He says, and he says some good things here too. He says, if nobody comes to see you, that's not a good sign. He says that's a sign either that you have no love or that you're unreasonably strict. In other words, you're... And if a man is lukewarm and mediocre, it's right that nobody go to see him.


But he says, if a man is holy, if a monk is holy, then you won't be able to keep people away from him. This is verified in the case of St. Anthony, of course. He was always running further into the desert, and he's always accumulating more disciples. And there are other cases like that, Orcinius is another one. These people who sought nothing but solitude, and they continually had more spiritual offspring just because of their holiness. He says, To whatever inaccessible spot you may flee, and in proportion as the ardor of divine love brings you nearer to God, so will the larger concourse of saintly brethren flock to you. For as the Lord says, A city set on a hill cannot be hid. That's a beautiful expression. A city set on a hill. What does it mean? How can he say that? What does it mean, a city set on a hill? It means somehow God has raised this person up. He set him up on an invisible hill. And a hill is holiness. In other words, he's been set up on a hill of God, so on a mountain of God.


Which is, of course, a spiritual sense of that. It's not the obvious, not the literal sense of the word. But God has set this person up in some invisible way by his holiness, so that invisibly he's upon a mountain, and invisibly he shines forth and draws people to him. So Gashin really makes some good scriptural references. And the hills, do they mean the same thing as they do in the Psalms? You can see those images are pretty mobile, and you can interpret them sometimes in one way, sometimes in another. But I think you can very well make a connection between the hill that he's talking upon here, on which is set the city of God, the luminous city of God, and the hill which is Zion, in the Psalms, and the mountain of the Lord, which is in several Psalms, okay? See, that's a fairly consistent symbol, and it means about the same thing. It's the presence of the Lord, the dwelling place of the Lord. And it's also, in some way, the holiness of the Lord. Because who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?


It's the person who actually stands in a pure heart, who is holy, you know, that's the thing. But then you could say, well, the mountain itself, in some way, is holiness. It's the mountain of the presence of God. And that's why it's visible. Even though it's invisible, it's visible, because he's saying you can't hide, you can't hide God, in a way. You can't hide God's glory, in a way. So there's that paradox there, you see, of invisibility and visible at the same time. But then he tells him that this is the the subtlest ruse of the devil, to promise you richer fruitfulness for your spiritual life, and dangle all these fantasies before you, you know, of this great place where you're going to be. And that way he attracts you, pulls you away from all the helps that you have, you see, in the monastic life. As he said, each one separates himself from living together with the elders.


And yet he's been deprived of all those things that he idly imagined in his heart. Because when he goes to that place, he doesn't find them there anyway. Those were just illusions. He rises, as it were, from a most profound slumber, and when awake will find nothing of those things of which he had dreamed. I think this has happened to a number of monks, for instance. A lot of the monks in the monasteries, when the renewal came along after Vatican II, when all of a sudden a bright vision of a new type of monastic community was opened up before them, like a lot of the monks in the big established Trappist monasteries. And so the vision of a small community, a small fraternal, intimate community, rose before them. They'd go out of the monastery, and in pursuit of this vision, another thing would dissolve in a very short while before their eyes. And either they'd just go and get married, or they'd stay outside, or something like that, to the monasteries. Which is not to say that those things are not, are always an illusion. No, but frequently they are, as you just see by the fruits, that the things don't last. And so as he is hampered by larger requirements for this life,


that is, he has more trouble getting what he needs to live. And in inextricable snares, the devil will not even allow him to aspire to those things which he had once promised himself. And he's not visited by the, spiritually, by the brethren as he was before in the desert, but he's daily interrupted by worldly folk. So he can't even return to the quiet of the enclave's life. No, it's a real tragedy. And then he goes on to say that it's good when the brethren come to visit you. That's part of the monastic life, and you shouldn't, you shouldn't shirk it. That most refreshing interlude of relaxation and courtesy, because of the arrival of brethren, because there was a big difference between what the monks did when they were alone, and what they did when someone came to visit them. It was always a question of furnishing something for the person to eat, and so on. You get this thing continually in the sayings of the Fathers. The story of the monk who, somebody went to see him and he offered him something to eat. He says, he wouldn't eat.


And he says, well, how come you're not eating? I've already eaten six times today, because people came to visit me that often. And I'm still, I still have an appetite. Things like that. Which I don't propose as an example. It often happens even to experienced monks, he says, that unless the strain and tension of their mind is lessened by the relaxation of some changes, they either fall into coldness of spirit, or at any rate into a most dangerous state of bodily health. So these visits of the brethren are intended by God to break the rhythm of the monastic life, lest it be too, too much of a strain. These visits stimulate us always to desire with greater eagerness the retirement of the desert. So there's an alternation. When being deprived of your quiet, you're given more of a desire for it. While they're thought to impede our progress, they really maintain it unwearied and unbroken. And if it was never hindered by any obstacles,


it would not endure to the end without unswerving. That's really a lot of wisdom. The man who's experiencing the monastic life, and he knows now that you don't take a thing and absolutize it, no matter what it be, whether it be solitude or whatever. Although all these things are susceptible to many degrees, and probably there were many situations in which there was so much coming and going, and so many visits, that you just couldn't live as a monk at all. I'm sure that happens sometimes. I think Abba John testified to it in another conference, the one who had been out in the desert and then come back into the synovium. That was one of the reasons. And then he gives a story. This is the first time I've seen it in this form, attributed to St. John the Evangelist. What was he doing? He was stroking a portrait. I don't know if any of you have had that. A philosopher came up. A philosopher in the garb of a hunter.


The philosopher was out hunting or disguised himself as a hunter. And he said, What you, John the Evangelist, stroking a portrait, why do you occupy yourself with it? Poor amusement. He went to see him on purpose. And John answers, What's that you're carrying? This is a story you've probably heard. I bet you've heard it somewhere else now. Because it's in St. Anthony. It's Anthony number, what is it? Number 13. Somehow this one is better than the one we've got in Anthony. It seems to me. It's a bow. Why don't you carry it everywhere bent? That wouldn't do because gradually it would lose its strength if it were bent all the time. And so St. John says, Well, likewise, you know, if we don't relax sometimes, we too will lose our dynamism. The spirit would lose its spring owing to the unbroken strain and would be unable when need required implicitly to follow what was right. See, that makes sense.


But if you read Anthony 13, it doesn't quite fit together. It's on page 3. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with a brethren and he was shocked. Okay, so this is more monastic because it's Abba Anthony with this fellow amongst, having recreation. So Anthony says to the hunter, Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it. He says, Do it again and again. And the hunter replied, If I bend my bow so much, I will break it. You know, that's not necessary. The story fits the moral better if you say, If I carry my bow always stretched, if my bow is always taut or tight, it will lose its strength. Anthony says, It's the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure, they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down and make their knees. When he heard these words,


the hunter was pierced by compunction and greatly edified by the old man who went away. So see, Cassian must have heard it first and from another source, from another tradition. Okay, chapter 22, Germanus. He asks another question. He must have come with a whole notebook full of questions. Explain then, he says, how our Lord says, My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Because it seems to contradict all of the other places in scriptures where the way of the Lord is described as a hard and rugged path. Even by Jesus. Now, all who will live godly in Christ suffer persecutions. So there's a contradiction there, he says. Whatever is hard and fraught with persecutions cannot be easy in life. Okay, 23. Abraham,


this is important at this point here. And of course the question is quite simple. Here we're always being told about the dura et aspera, the hard things about the menace of life. And even in the gospel, people are, the one who follows Christ is promised nothing but a cross, you know. On one side. And then on the other side, Jesus says, Come and take my yoke upon you because my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Well, how do you fit those two things together? What does it mean? So this is a real, the real pivot in Christian life as well as in the monastic life of this paradox of the cross. And what does Abraham say? He says that the secret is the totality of your commitment. Something happens if you give yourself totally to Jesus. And you give yourself totally to God. And something flips over and everything becomes easy for you. In some way there are two ways. You can either hang back


and you can have things dragged out of you piece by piece. Or you can give yourself completely and then you're sort of on the other side and it's like walking downhill. That's sort of putting it in a nutshell, but let's see how he says it. If we approach the way of perfection properly and in accordance with Christ's will and mortifying all our desires and cutting off injurious likings, not only allow nothing to remain with us of this world's goods. Because he says this world's goods are give to the devil opportunities of destroying and damaging us. In other words, if you hang on to anything the devil's going to torment you with it. There's a story in, we should probably recollect, it's another story of Anthony. Number... Number...


Number 20. A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. And he went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, if you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that. You get the picture. The brother did so and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back, the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body. And Saint Anthony said, those who renounce the world but want to keep something from themselves, something for themselves, are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them. You see, the incisiveness of that image of your... Really, if you hang on to something, it's like leaving your flesh, part of your body as food for birds of prey or the demons or whatever. Exposing yourself to be tortured. What does it mean really?


It means that you're not... You're leaving part of your heart open, right? You're leaving part of your heart bare. There's part of your heart that you haven't got back. It doesn't belong to you. And therefore, that's going to be tortured. That part of your heart, which is still hanging on to something and therefore is vulnerable through that something. It's as if you were married to something material, you know? And therefore, you're exposed to torment there. And that's a matter of experience. I think everybody experiences that. The things that we hang on to, the things that we remain attached to are the things by which we are both sort of tied up or tied down and the things by which we're tormented. St. John of the Cross writes about this masterfully in the... I guess it's the first book of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, which is about the mortification of desires. And he compares the desire, remember, to the little thread


that holds the bird's leg. He says, it doesn't make any difference whether you're tied by a cable or tied by a thread. As long as you're tied by that attachment, by that desire, you're still held down. You still can't fly. It's a beautiful image because it expresses the difference between being able to fly, you know, being able to live in the spirit and having to just crawl around and pick your foot off the ground within a little circle. I could actually recognize that we are not our own masters and truly make our own the apostles' words. I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. For what can be burdensome or hard to one who has embraced with his whole heart the yoke of Christ, who is established in true humility and ever fixes his eye on the Lord's sufferings, that is the cross, and rejoices in all the wrongs


that are offered to him, saying, for which cause I please myself in my infirmities, reproaches, necessity, etc. For when I am weak, then I am strong. See the paradox continually. The paradox of the cross. When you quote St. Paul, who was really the preacher of that, see how the yoke and the cross are sort of interchangeable, as if the yoke of Christ were the cross. When he invites, sort of sweetly, to come and take up my yoke upon you and my burden, and says in another place, he who wants to be my disciple has to take up his cross. It's as if he was saying the same thing. And in one place the word comes as a stone, and in the other place it comes as bread. It's the same thing he's saying. It's the hard side and the sweet side of it. Where would you, just on that point of affection, where would you draw the line between these affections that keep you human, that we were talking about before, and the necessary suffering


that has to come with that, as opposed to just cutting off and possibly losing some of that humanity Okay, it's a question of... We can use different words for these things. You can talk about attachments and desires on one side, and you can talk about affections and just affectivity or sensitivity or sensibility on the other side, okay? So, there's the natural, spontaneous emotion or affection or, what shall we call it, affectivity or, not desire exactly, but love for something, which is sort of the radical thing, the root thing, which comes out of the fountain of your heart, as it were, before it's attached to something. And then there's that affectivity or emotion or feeling or whatever, when it's been attached to an object, and then you're bound to that object, okay? Take those two cases.


The case in which you see something and in the first movement, spontaneous movement, you love that thing, okay? And the first movement might be a kind of movement of joy, but also a movement towards attachment already, because you want to have it. As soon as we see something that we love, usually greed is right behind and says, I like that, I love that, I want that for myself. Swallows it. Yeah, it swallows it up if you can. If you can't, it just makes you miserable, because you want it and you can't have it, and so it's a cause for sadness. A beautiful thing or a good thing is a cause for sadness instead of for joy, okay? So as long as we're in an unpurified state, it's always going to be that way, because it's a question of getting beyond that individual self, which wants everything for itself, okay? To the point where we arrive at the deep self or the person who rejoices in things because he doesn't even


belong to himself anymore, okay? He belongs to God. He belongs to God himself, and therefore he rejoices in everything else as being a son of God and enjoying his father's, just his father's garden, you know, his father's house. Whereas as long as we've got to be in the center, as long as we're still on the surface of our being and haven't arrived at that true center, which is God, we've got to have it for ourselves, and so immediately we try to attach it to ourselves. And it's the attachment that's the thing that imprisons us, you see? It's not the first movement of joyful response to something, to something beautiful. But it's somehow that imprisonment that we get ourselves into when we grab it to, as a Buddhist would say, to solidify our non-existent self. To make us feel that we have a certain reality. They talk about solidification all the time because they think of the self as being non-existent. And they're right as far as that superficial self is concerned. But it's as if it was always trying to acquire a body by attaching itself to something good. To something beautiful


and desirable. Or finding an image of itself that it can solidify. And it does that, and then we're bound. It seems like each time you do that, when you fall, it seems much deeper as you go along. It can be, unless one starts working in the opposite direction somehow. Or you experience the emptiness. You can get more and more bound, and then you're tied hand and foot, and all you experience is emptiness. And what seemed desirable at first and beautiful, somehow all of the glow is faded out of it, and all there is is kind of, just, I think of Samson. Samson, they put his eyes out and they put him in the middle to grind, round and round, grinding, grinding, grinding. So the eyes of your understanding are put out. And by the Philistines, you're sort of subjected to this repetitive operation, which is pleasure. It's pleasure, but there's not a grain of joy in the whole thing. Remember Luke's


thing about pleasure and joy. It's the same thing we're talking about. If that first impulse can be conserved in its purity somehow, so that we don't grab the thing and build an attachment, and sort of tie it onto ourselves, and get attached to it, and tie ourselves down at the same time, then we can proceed all the way to joy. It can follow its natural path, which is not back to self, but straight to God, which is not away from us, really, but into our center. And that's joy. We shouldn't be able to rejoice in anything beautiful or anything good in our life, especially in other people. I often think in our life, we're sort of disciplined and aware of this sort of thing, but when you look at the relationship between people, and sort of human affection and love, the tension there, you wonder, it's a very difficult thing to maintain that, as you say, non-possessiveness, and yet continue that, whether it's a friend, a wife,


or whatever. You're always in that... Especially if the other person doesn't see it the same way you do. It's a tool, I think. I don't know, and I think we've got a whole ideology which tends to help us there, but at the same time, it can dry us up entirely, because as it's often been interpreted, friendship itself is seen as a negative and dangerous thing to be avoided. Well, that dries up your affectivity altogether, and then you don't even have the heart to love God, or to love yourself, because we've got to love ourselves. It seems a crazy thing when we do it, in a lot of ways. You have to be able to accept yourself, and in a way, just rejoice in your being. But when you're rejoicing in yourself, what are you doing? You're not rejoicing in that shallow self. The self is separate. But when you rejoice in yourself, knowing that you're an atom in the ocean, sort of, and yet that you are, and that God has made you to last, and that somehow you belong to the resurrection, and so on. They're things that can't be put


into words, I guess. But that affectivity is very much, very much involved in acceptance and a kind of joyful relationship with our self, I think. And it's too easy for the monastic philosophy to work against that. Now, it's tricky, because we're continually told to repent for our sins, and to think of ourselves as sinners. And if you read The Cloud of Unknowing, for instance, it has a lump of sin. And if you read The Will of Saint Benedict, you consider yourself the worst and the lowest of all, and just unworthy to walk on the earth. That's true, and the other thing's true, too, and how you live in it together, to rejoice. Whenever we go far enough, we run into paradox. Whenever you follow any line far enough, you're going to run into a paradox. And that's because our human reasoning meets up with its own limit, just as our human self meets up with its own limit. And that's the wall


that surrounds, sort of, the city of God. That's the wall that surrounds the kingdom. And the only way to get in there is by being led in. You can't push up with it. But the paradoxes are resolved there. And that's what Keshe was talking about in the last part of his conference. If we ever get there, it doesn't look like we're going to get there this time. So his principle there in chapter 23 is it's the totality of the commitment of the giving of self that makes possible this easiness, this joy. And that's a very important thing in this. And so we get discouraged sometimes when the monastic writers keep hammering away at us on this point of renunciation and everything. And it just,


it can knock you right down into the ground. They're right, and yet at a certain time we may not be able to listen to that word. And the whole thing is in crossing over from that place where, the place of fear, where we're still attached to something, where we've still got something to be afraid of, where we still haven't really died, you know, passing over to the other side, the other slope as it were, where you're going downhill. Why are you going downhill? You're going uphill as long as you're going against your own gravitational force. As long as you're moving against the gravitation of your own shallow self, of your own ego. You get to the top, you're going downhill when you begin reacting to the gravity which is in your deeper self. And you begin following the gravity which is God in the center of your soul. You know, it's like moving away from the earth and falling into the gravitational field of the sun or something like that. Zoom! In an accelerating way towards the real center. Peter Damien and Oliver,


most of them, and Astrid Reuters talk in their book, where he talks about, you know, you can't get into the promised land unless you really leave Egypt. You've got to go across that desert. That's the death, that's the mortification they were always talking about. And then in a promised land everything becomes different, everything becomes sweet and easy, even the things that seemed hard before. Jean Benedict talks in the same terms. And they associate it with a gift of tears pretty often. Peter Damien is writing about tears when he says that. That's the sign of entering the promised land. He started talking about poverty and he associates it very much with obedience because poverty turns into obedience at a certain point, you see. You can be poor by not having anything, by not holding on to your goods and so on, as we saw with Antony there, the fellow who kept back something. But at a certain point poverty, in the deepest sense, turns into not possessing what? Not possessing yourself, right? And at that point poverty is obedience


because you don't possess yourself when you are totally disponible to the will of someone else, which means the will of God. And the scripture quotation that Cashew makes illustrate that. And so that's a kind of a watershed, a boundary that we have to cross. And until we do cross it, the matter of rejoicing and sufferings and humiliations is always going to be an enigma to us, always going to be a mystery to us. You need to believe the testimony of the saints that they exist and that there is a transformation. And I'm sure that every one of us has experienced it, at least in small ways. There are times when you achieve a victory, you know, when you renounce yourself and when you just feel freed, at least for a little while. You feel that just for a little while that you're sort of bathing in the glow of your own true self in some way, that you're living in the sunshine of your own deepest being. Until the next time


you make a mistake. Okay, we'd better quit there for this time. Next time we can finish this and maybe try to do something with Conference 12.