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Cassian Institute

AI Summary: 





It says the same but without so many words. It seems that what we're to receive in this time is very much, as Cashen puts it, it's the charity of the Church, right? It's the fellowship of Christianity by which you have a hundred times as many brothers and sisters. Only the requirement for that is that one truly enter into that freedom, you see, because if he doesn't he's not going to experience that. If a person is still bound by egoism, he's not going to find that other people are his brothers, they're still going to be his enemies, his competitors, he's either going to be afraid of them or he's going to be lusting after them, depending on what kind of people they are and so on, you see. So it depends upon the person's arriving to that freedom. Arriving into the hundredfold implies going across that desert sort of like Abraham. And the hundredfold ties in beautifully with the story of Abraham, because remember he's promised to this offspring in this land which is going to be very large, and the offspring which is going to be countless like the sands of the sea and the stars of the heavens.


It's a hundredfold. And a hundredfold there is a human hundredfold, we're told. So that's the freedom of being the sons of God, and then the freedom which is enjoyed already in this life, and which is principally experienced through charity, because it's largely on the interpersonal relationship, on level or in community, that this is meted. And even Cashin interprets it in that sense of community, even though he's talking about monks and talking to monks, and he's talking about hermits in his conferences, he still interprets it in that sense, as brothers and sisters of people in a way, and in the future life eternal, which is something we simply don't have any words for. So it's beyond duality and beyond the illusion of the separate self, as the Easterners would say. It's getting into learning participation, which means that you are, but you're never


just yourself, you're always more than yourself, and that's the basis of this freedom. You are, but you're not alone. That illusion that we have of the individual who is completely cut off from others and just interacts with them like a billion people and like an atom, that's one of the deepest illusions we have in modern times. And the fact is that we participate in one another, in one great reality, and we participate in one another because we participate in God together, and the basic participation is in God. This participation, it's a Greek notion by the way, but it's very much in the Bible too, and it comes from Plato, but it's very biblical. Question from the audience, inaudible. Well, Evagris doesn't talk so much about the communitarianism, but the universal brotherhood


and so on. He's not interested in that. He's so much a solitary that he doesn't talk about, at least in what he's writing there. What he does talk about is that theory of physique or natural contemplation. Now, he's thinking more of things than of people, I think, okay? He's talking about seeing sort of into the centre of things and finding God in them, seeing God in things. That would be everything, including people, yeah, but he doesn't talk about it in detail. Is there a fullness in that experience, or is there a feeling of incompleteness that goes with that? According to the, there may be a fullness for a while, I think, okay? In other words, when a person comes into that experience, for a while he may feel very satisfied and like there was nothing beyond it, but if you read St. John of the Cross, read his spiritual canticle, what does he say? He says, send me no more messengers, but speak to me yourself. He's commenting on the Song of Solomon where he says, let him kiss me with the kisses of


his mouth. And John of the Cross takes off and writes his own canticle, but he says, send me no more messengers of yourself, but you come yourself. In other words, the person after a while finds that this too is empty, because this is not God himself, and so he wants to go beyond that. And he might even prefer the silence and emptiness, you see, of nothing, in order that he could be focused solely on God, without the intermediary of the creatures. John of the Cross is very strong on that issue. Others are not so strong on it. But the fact that if Agrius says, well, this is only the intermediate state and the ultimate state of the contemplation of the Trinity, he's already saying the same thing. So this notion of the hundredfold, it's kind of an expression of the all, you know, of the whole. The whole of the self, the whole that is the true self, the full self, the inner self. The whole of the cosmos, of the universe.


And the whole of God, too. The hundredfold means everything. It means there's no dualism anymore, there's no separation anymore. There's somehow a person has got into, has got into the whole thing. It's all one for him now. Like when St. Paul says, all things are yours and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. All things are yours, he says. And that place where St. John of the Cross says it, God is mine, and all these things are mine. Because you have simply got to your own self, to what you are. When you really get there, then nothing is separate from you. Then there's the question of this, the violence, remember, where he says that the violence at the end of the kingdom of heaven, and the idea that the violence that he's talking about is doing violence to your own desire, doing violence to your own will. St. John of the Cross talks about that a lot.


Especially in that place where, this is in the Ascent, Book 1, Chapter 11. He's talking about attachments. And he's distinguishing these attachments which hold a person back from just the, you know, automatic desires, the instinctive desires that come up. And he's very severe on this. In fact, he's so severe on it that you have to use a lot of discretion in trying to follow what he says, otherwise you can sort of blank yourself out completely. These habitual imperfections are, for example, a common custom of much speaking, or some slight attachment which we never quite wish to conquer. Such is that to a person, a garment, a book, a cell, a particular kind of food. Gossip, fancies for tasting, knowing, or hearing certain things, and such like.


You know, very small things. Any one of these imperfections, if the soul has become attached and habituated to it, is of great harm to its growth and progress in virtue, as though it were to fall daily into many other imperfections and casual venial sins, which proceed not from a habitual indulgence of any habitual and harmful attachment, and will not hinder it so much as when it has an attachment to anything. You see the big difference between just a desire, or just a fault, even a sin, which is not an attachment, and the kind that's an attachment, which is steady going. For as long as it has this, there's no possibility that it will make progress in perfection, even though the imperfection be extremely slight. This is frightening, I should say. For it comes to the same thing, whether a bird be held by a slender cord or by a stout one, since even if it be slender, the bird will be as well held as though it were stout, for as long as it breaks it, it does not break it, and does not fly away. That's an image that sticks in the memory, the one about the bird. You can tie it down with a cable, you know, with a rope, or tie it down with a thread,


but it's all the same, you know, until it breaks it, until it gets free. It's still found. It is true that the slender one is the easier to break, still easy though it be, the bird will not fly away if it be not broken. And thus the soul that has attachment to anything, however much virtue it possess, will not attain to the liberty of divine liberty. For the desire and the attachment of the soul have that power which the sucking fish is said to have when it clings to a ship. What do they call those things? They have a lot of them in the Great Lakes. There's a parasite fish that clings to other fish. I can't remember the name of it. For though but a very small fish, if it succeed in clinging to the ship, it makes it incapable of reaching the port, or sailing on at all. I must not be exaggerating when listening to the police and sailors stories. It's sad to see certain souls in this plight, like rich vessels they are laden with wealth


and good works and spiritual exercises, and with the virtues and the favors that God grants them. And yet because they have not the resolution to break with some whim or attachment or affection, which all come to the same thing, they never make progress or reach the port of perfection. For they would need to do no more than make one good flight, and thus to snap that cord of desire right off, or to rid themselves of that sucking fish of desire which clings to them. He's very forceful. That's the violence that he's talking about. It's funny how we can be dominated by even a very small thing. Okay, that's probably enough about this. There's the question of the reality of the state that Gershon is talking about, the saints that are talking about this kind of freedom, this kind of love, this kind of perfection. We have the testimony of the saints that it exists. And also we, I don't know, from time to time we may have a little experience of that kind of freedom.


God gives us a little taste of it, maybe just once, so that we'll know what there is to aim for. But if you don't know it, you have to get out and try to get it out. Not always visible on the one side. Well, if a person really looks into himself and he's really sincere, and he says, well where is my heart? Now what is really important to me? Is it God or is it something else? Well, something's got to come up. Now, that's the way ultimately, I think, is to look into one's own heart and see what he's really most attached to. The only trouble is that usually we don't have the strength to make that thing. Also, we may be blind and we may be over scrupulous. If a person is scrupulous, he's always going to be torturing himself, feeling he's got to give up everything. He'll continually be moving back and forth, just in torment. So it's better for him not to try to do that.


He hasn't got the clarity or the strength to do that sort of thing. It's best to do this sort of thing with spiritual direction anyway, because otherwise we can't torment ourselves a lot. We'll always be looking for something. You see, the way John the Cross talks, that's the trouble with him. He talks so absolutely that he can scare you if the daylight's out of you. Because you'll always figure that you're not free yet, you see, and that you're not getting anywhere. And it makes it impossible to reach any tranquility or any peace within yourself. If I always feel that I'm insincere and that I'm not really trying and that I'm attached to something, and it may be purely a physical thing, I may have a vitamin deficiency that makes me hungry all the time. So I ask myself in my heart, well, what is it that I'm really attached to? And the answer comes out of the machine. Food. And you can do that for ten years. And when you do, you'll drive yourself crazy and it won't do you any good. So if you just read John the Cross and try to do it yourself, sometimes you can do it.


You can make yourself very unhappy and not get anywhere. Because we can't control our own experience or our own feelings or our own... certain things which are not really attachments in the same sense. But our appetite's just the same and we don't have power over it. Somebody with a little blood sugar or something like that, you know, it's a physical thing. So there's a psychological and a physical aspect that has to be considered. So he has to be taken with a lot of discretion. He's a beautiful writer and he's absolutely true in what he writes. But there's another side that he doesn't talk about. But that's the way, you know, it's that kind of introspection where you ask, where you ask, what is in my heart? There's a book by Cartesian which was edited by a fellow, Tissot, T-I-S-S-O-T, entitled The Interior Light, which is beautifully centered upon that one point, the glance, the inner glance in the heart, just asking that question, where is my heart?


Or what do I want, as it were? And just that one quick act tells us where we are at a particular moment. That's the one practice which he makes the sort of indicator, the dial, the compass for the whole spiritual life. But even with that, as I said, we have to be discreet because our feelings are allowed to be pretty wild at a given time. And we don't want to judge everything by how we feel or what we think we want at a particular moment. In the end, we have to trust in God beyond anything that we find in our own heart. Like St. John said somewhere, he said, well, if our own heart doesn't accuse us or if it does accuse us, God is greater than our heart. And so that has to be our final goal. Okay, any comments or questions or anything on this before we go back to the conference? What's Tisot? Tisot, T-I-S-S-O-T.


We have the book in the library. A very orderly book. It was written by a Carthusian who had probably been a Jesuit the first time. And this Tisot actually is a Salesian who edited it because the author is anonymous. That was given to me by Fr. Adelberg when I was way back in Novitiate. I found it very useful at that time, very helpful. You know, the whole book may be a little... You may find the whole book a little tedious because it's all structured, you see. But this is the secret, this is the key to it. And the one thing that I remember from it. It's based on kind of a Jesuit philosophy, I think, but this particular discernment by Fr. Adelberg. Which is typically monastic. Okay, let's go back to Conference 12 on chastity and talk about that to some degree because it's a pretty rich conference. We don't have a translation,


so what I did was just to make some notes on it. Then when we get to the richer chapters we can extend the discussion of it. Now, just to give a little background about this, to integrate it a little bit into the whole picture. One of the good things about this conference is that he's treating not just about the question of chastity. First of all, when you think of chastity you think of not indulging in sexual practices, the negative sort of thing there, of just staying pure, and that's it. Well, this axis of chastity and sexuality, however, is a central axis of man's structure. I mean, anthropologically it goes right down to the center of his existence, even though we tend to shy away from that, we tend to put it up on the side not to look at it because it scares us. But if you read the scriptures you'll find


that it's pretty central, too. We were talking about the Son of Son the other day, which is in the middle of the theology of the Old Testament and also of the New Testament. And this is based right on that love relationship between the bride and the unmarried, based right on a sexual metaphor. And you find the monastic commentators, they turn to that with preference. They love to comment on the Son of Son, starting with Origen before monasticism, but then Gregory of Nyssa and others, Gregory the Great, and then in the Middle Ages, especially the Cistercians, notably Saint Barnard and William of Nicaea. So that for them somehow expressed the highest union of the soul with God. But it also expressed something that was going on inside of man. There's an anthropological truth. Because when they comment on this in the Middle Ages, and even earlier, they're always talking about what man is made of, how he's made of. They're talking about the image of God and so on. So the whole anthropology of the Father comes into this.


So when we talk about chastity in the terms that Cashin talks about it, we're talking about what goes on inside of man, inside his body and his soul, as he moves forward in the life of prayer. Because this whole notion of the mystical marriage and so on. Also in John the Cross, you read a spiritual canticle, that's where it comes out. That whole notion is based on the belief that there's a process that happens in man whereby what starts out being sexual energy is turned into something else, gets turned into love, there's a kind of a transformation. The equivalent in the East, of course, is something like Kundalini Yoga. An energy transformation occurs. So that what started out as sexual energy ends up with some kind of enlightenment, ends up with some kind of contemplative experience, or some kind of very generous love. Okay. Nowadays, especially, I think these things are important.


It's important to reintegrate them into a lasting spiritual love that hasn't been enough considered. Whether or not our translator felt a few years ago that that was necessary. Okay. Now there's a question here for which we have to go back to the preceding conference. As often, Jimenas will come up with a whopper of a question just when the Abba has decided it's time for everybody to go to bed. So that happened in conference number 12. The conference was on perfect charity, it was on perfection. And in chapter 14, Jimenas said, well now you've told us all... There's a misprint in the book, by the way, there. He says, you finished your discourse on perfect chastity, you should read charity. That's a subconscious slip of the translator who was already thinking about conference 12, even though he wasn't going to translate it.


That's a Freudian slip probably, but... Translator. We want also to ask about the end of chastity, because he says, certainly it must be necessary if you want to achieve perfect charity that you also achieve perfect chastity, that the two of them must be linked. That's Jimenas' question. And so how do you achieve this business of perfect chastity? And Chairman, he's the business partner here, he said, well you're right, but we'll talk about that after we rest. And then conference 12 goes on from there, conference 13. Is it 13? No, it's 12. Oh no, I've got the wrong page. It's number 12, of course. Okay. So in the first chapter, Cherilyn begins to talk about...


I've got the titles of the chapters I could read to you, but that would be kind of few. When we get to the important sections or divisions, I'll get to some kind of a heading thing. The question is whether, first of all, is it possible to have perfect charity without perfect chastity? And of course it's not. And Chairman repeats that in chapter 1 of conference 12. Is it possible that the fire of concupiscence which seems to be born into our flesh be extinguished entirely? And he's going to say that it is. He's going to say that there is possible and has been experienced a state of chastity which is perfect insofar as there's no movement of impurity in the body or in the soul anymore. And then the way to get there. And he quotes St. Paul.


There are a couple of central quotations from St. Paul here. The first of them being Colossians 3.5. Mortify or put to death, he says, your members which are on the earth. I'm going to take a look at that. Colossians chapter 3, verse 5. Now this started, but you go back a little bit. If you've been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Now, here's where we start. Put to death, therefore, mortificate in the Latin, mortify. What is earthly in you? Immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. Now he's got a notion here,


which comes from several places in St. Paul, of a sort of body of sin. Because literally St. Paul, I didn't bring the original down here, but literally St. Paul says, put to death your earthly members. Earthly members. In other words, it's if you were amputating limbs of a certain body. Okay? That's the language he used. In Latin, mortificate, membra vestra, quae sunt superterra. So it sounds almost as if you were going to chop off arms or legs or whatever. Jesus, remember, in the gospel says, if your eye offends you, pluck it out, cast it from you. If your right hand offends you, then cut it off, throw it away. But Cassian says, no, that's not what the apostle is talking about. Nor is that what the Lord is talking about in the gospel. And he refers to another passage, which is Romans 6.6. It says, that the body of sin may be destroyed. For if we have been united with Christ


in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is free from sin. So now he's asking, what is this body of sin? Here I would refer you to the Bible of Jerusalem if you want to really find out what St. Paul means. This corpus picatia, or body of sin. He calls it a body of sin in one place and a body of death in another place. And it's tricky here, because there's a question, St. Paul is talking in a kind of rhetorical language too, because in one place he'll say your body is dead. Your body is dead because you died with Christ. And yet obviously your body is alive, isn't it? So what does he mean then? He means that somehow, your death and your separation from the body is already radically in you in some way, but it hasn't fully happened yet. And yet another thing is what Cassian and St. Paul are really talking about,


which is a mortification of the sinful practices and habits that you had before. That's a second kind of death. And a third kind would be actually cutting off some limb, like Origen, who is said to have castrated himself for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. When he read the Gospel it said there were eunuchs who had made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He decided he wanted to be among them. But he's not talking about that either. So he's talking about the intermediate thing there, the mortifying of vicious habits and tendencies. He talked about that in another conference, I think it was number 22 or 23, where he spent a lot of time commenting on Romans chapter 7. Now he talks about this body of sin as if it were an actual body. And he means by it the series of vices. The same ones that St. Paul lists there


in Colossians. Immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. So he goes on to comment on it. We don't need to go into that in detail. There's a question of whether the passion of fornication can completely be eliminated. He says that it can't. St. Paul, to prove it. But he emphasizes continually the need for grace. In chapter 4 he talks a lot about the desire which a person should have for perfect charity. This is a question of whether the passion This is a good passage here. He says you should desire charity with the same intensity that a person, that a covetous person, an avaricious person, or a lustful person would be filled with. In other words, the movement of passion


is supposed to be moved over from one side to the other. And even in the beginning, that sort of thing should be in view. That a person's desire of purity with the same, at least potentially, the same intensity of desire with which he might have been impure. There's a kind of a transformation that's going to happen there. And already at the beginning, he's exhorting people to that kind of intensity of desire. Chapter 5, he says the battle is good for you. The battle against carnal temptation is good for you. Remember that earlier conference number 4 on the warfare of the flesh and the spirit against one another where he said the same thing. He talks about the eunuchs there and he says that they're spiritually tepid because, why? Because they don't have this battle to contend against. Because they don't have the carnal temptations, therefore they're not aroused to spiritual vigor.


I don't know what the physiology is. And then he says something good, he says the soul has to have some movement. The soul is not, or the mind is not able to exist, not able to live without some kind of movement, without some kind of desire, some kind of love, okay? So you have to give it a positive love in order that it may be moved away from the negative love, from concupiscence, from lust, from desire, from impure desire. You have to give it a positive desire. So his whole anthropology here is going to be, spirituality is going to be a positive one, not a negative one, not the idea of just mortifying and then sort of leaving a void. See, John of the Cross might talk in those terms, but Cassian is not going to talk in those terms. Excuse me, he always talks about moving from a positive to a positive. You remember before, he doesn't have this notion of the void, you see, the same way that John of the Cross, because that's interesting. There's something in John of the Cross


that's much more advanced than you find in Cassian. The idea of just an emptiness, an empty space, a void opening up within you. But also the apophatic idea of contemplation and spirituality, whereby God is really ineffable, beyond experience, beyond anything you can know. There's not much developed in Cassian. It's developed more in some other writers in the East, like Gregory of Nysense. And very much, extraordinarily so, in John of the Cross. And so he tends to talk much more about a void, you see, just about leaving a pure emptiness. Cassian will talk about tranquility, he'll talk about peace, but it's as if that peace were always a kind of active look for God, as if there were always a fullness there instead of an emptiness. He doesn't have a strong notion of emptiness. So he says, if we want to extinguish the carnal concupiscences in our hearts, the carnal desires,


we have to put in their place spiritual pleasures, voluptatis, spiritual delights, so that we will be able to forego present delights. Merton also would seem to be writing against this. When he says, look out, make sure that you don't think that contemplation is just exchanging, letting go of temporal pleasures, of earthly pleasures, for heavenly pleasures. He says, no, it's nothing like that. So he and Cassian would be a little bit at odds there, at least on the surface of the matter. And then he quotes this verse from the psalm. I kept the Lord always in my sight. Since he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. There are two things in that. One is the idea of keeping the Lord always in your sight. That's what gives you this positive desire.


And then the other is the idea of trusting in him. He's the only one that keeps you chaste. You remember, in this regard, you remember that mill that Cassian has in the first conference. See, one thing is the level of desire, the other thing is the level of the mind. He said, your mind is like a mill, it's turning around all the time. It's up to you to put the right kind of material into it, right? He's talking about thoughts, then here he's talking about desires. It's the same principle, you see. He says, the thing has to have content. It has to be working on something. It has to be chewing and digesting something. And so, make sure that you've got the right thing in it. Whether he's talking about thoughts or whether he's talking about desires, it's the same principle. He's too good at the other two. He doesn't use a concrete metaphor here. My eyes are always on the Lord because he will rescue my feet from the snare. Chapter 6, he gets into the need for patience in overcoming impure desire.


And this is interesting. He says that if you want to talk about it or anything else that you want to think about with regard to Cassian, then go back to Conference 12, which would be the last one for us in the series. You have to wind it up. Last time, we were sort of talking about the general path or trajectory or process that you find in Conference 24. The question of freedom, of liberation, freedom from desires, from attachments. We referred to this article by Thomas Martin in Cistercian Studies, 1974, entitled The Ascetic Life Experience of God and Freedom. And we were focusing particularly on the notion of freedom. And he talks about two kinds of freedom there, remember. Freedom of choice, as he says, and freedom of spontaneity. Freedom of choice means that you are able to choose between two alternatives.


He's using that expression to refer to the most shallow kind of choice, like choosing between two products which are, you know, quite equivalent in value. Whereas freedom of spontaneity, like choosing between what a Cadillac and a Buick or something like that. Freedom of spontaneity is a more interior kind of freedom, which means that you have in your position your own will or your own heart or your own desire, so that you may choose or you may choose not to choose, in a sense, so that you may attach your will to something or you are free not to attach it, if you will. That's the way they usually talk about this, as I remember in moral theology. Freedom of spontaneity, in other words, is the interior control of your will, having disposition of your own will, of your own heart, and therefore very much having disposition of yourself. I think it might be,


it's easier to understand it if you talk about it as exterior freedom. Well, that's not perfect either, because exterior freedom can mean freedom from constraint, you know, that nobody is forcing you to do anything. But talk about exterior freedom and interior freedom. Exterior freedom is the freedom of choosing among various objects or choosing among various things to do, okay? But interior freedom is a little harder to understand. It's choosing to have something or not to have something, to enjoy something or not to enjoy something, to do something or not to do something. But it's also choosing my general attitude towards life or towards my experience or towards what happens to me. Consider the case in which you have no freedom of choice at all, in the exterior sense, okay? Like Frankl's case there in the prison camp, because that's where this notion comes up most, in most contemporary form, where you're under sentence of death, as it were.


Your death is virtually certain within a short time, just like everybody else in this horrible place, this prison camp. And do you have any choice left? Do you have any liberty left? Is there any way left in which you can possess yourself? Well, a lot of people felt that there wasn't, and so they would simply despair, you know, or rebel, or some of them would try to commit suicide, you know, or run into the electrified wire or something like that. Well, Frankl took another tack, he took another approach. He felt he had the freedom to say yes, even in this circumstance. And besides, he had a freedom which was given to him by his faith, somehow, and a God who was bigger than a whole mess. And so that's what he did. He accepted it. So he discovered a depth of freedom which was quite different from the external freedom of choice, and also which somehow transcended the whole situation. So it gave him a whole different attitude, a whole different kind of spirit.


And he found that he could live with a certain equilibrium, whereas others were despairing on all sides of it. Some others made the same discovery under similar circumstances. But that freedom of spontaneity is very important for the monk, because that's really what we're after. The freedom of choice is something you sort of abdicate in the monastic life. The whole matter of obedience means hardly abdicating your freedom of choice, doesn't it? Not entirely, because that would sort of crush you as a person. If you had no opportunity to exercise freedom of choice, there'd be something missing in your life, something missing in your personality and in your growth. But primarily the monk is interested in that freedom of spontaneity, and that's why he gives up his freedom of choice. That's why he puts himself under rule and under obedience, and that's why he submits himself to poverty too, so that he can't choose between different products and different enjoyments and so on. And that freedom of spontaneity is evoked, is elicited,


largely under contrary experiences. The scriptures, I guess, are full of examples of that, but one of the chief ones is Jesus in the garden there, the garden of Gethsemane, where first he says, Father, I pray that with your will take away this chalice from me. Then he says, No, not as I will, but as you will. Now, that's exercising the freedom of spontaneity, you see. Discovering a deeper level of freedom, even though his death can't be avoided, even though his choice is taken away, in a sense. He chooses not to choose. Not to choose an alternative. And I suppose that it's only when we experience this that we can understand what we're talking about. It's only when something breaks through and admits you to that deeper level of freedom that you understand what's being spoken of.


And very often that has to happen in some kind of suffering. I'll bet this has a lot to do with that whole business of, you know, what's the name there, the one who writes about dying. Those five stages of death. Kuruvilla. Kuruvilla, yes. I haven't studied that. I remember reading them once or twice, but I don't recall it now. But it's probably largely the same question of a breakthrough into freedom which allows you finally to accept, you see, to accept death. Now, that freedom is not a matter just of accepting your extinction, you know, of just saying yes to the end. No, it's not. It's discovering something that goes beyond death. You see, that's the thing. Even though you can't, you don't have a vision of something that goes beyond death, but it's getting yourself to a place where you're really crossed over already. You're really standing in a place which is beyond death. You can do that. So it's the experience of the resurrection. Martin, you gave some examples from literature here. One is Rilke writing about the Russians.


And then he gets down to something which you find in various places in Thomas Martin in his later years. Remember the imagery in the Psalms about the man who was just about to go under and he didn't, and it seemed like the limit and it wasn't. Remember, we were talking about that during lunch. All those Psalms in which the psalmist is in real trouble and the waters are closing over his head and he's going down into the pit and his enemies are all around him and he's picturing shapes of all these animals attacking him. There just seems to be no hope in sight. But he's still praying. When you go down and down and down and everything is taken away and taken away and taken away until you get down to the last little bit of you that is left before the whole thing is snuffed out, there you find God. God is where this little seed of you, this little kernel of gold is left. Real freedom is the freedom to be able to come and go to that center and be able to do without everything that is not immediately connected with it. Because when you die, that is all that is left.


He talks, that other notion that he expresses in Conjectures of Tilly Feinsteiner, which is a book which was written much earlier in his life, about that point vierge, remember? Very much related to this, that virgin point. Very much related to this. Because it's an untouchable place in us somehow. Something that we can't really spoil. But that we can't really enjoy either, at this point. But it's the enduring core of our being. Other people talk about it as the fine point of the soul and so on. A lot of expressions for it, the center of the soul. When we die, everything is destroyed except what is important. There's one thing which is our reality and which God preserves forever and which nobody can touch. And the knowledge of this is built into that little grain of gold, the spark of the soul. To be out of contact with that is to be unfree. Because it is from that center that everything comes. It is from there that we know. It is there that God is preserving us in being. It is there that we get our inspiration. We get some inspiration from the outside, too.


I hear you, Martin, talking about the exterior and the interior and contrasting the two. And I recall that also in his last years he was very much interested in that duality between the exterior self and the interior self. And the exterior self he often called the false self, or at least the temporary self. The interior self is the true self and the permanent self. We get some inspiration from the outside, too. Something is read in church, the gospel perhaps, and it comes from outside. But it comes from inside, too, and meets in your machinery. Or Luf might say that the word being read from outside, you hear it from outside, meets the spirit in your heart. See, and the two react, the two combine. But you have to be in contact with that deep inner center. And we do not normally get into that contact unless we are sometimes brought to the edge of what looks like destruction. In other words, we have to be facing the reality of the possible destruction of everything else


in order to know that this will not be destroyed. You have to experience the difference. If a person once has access to this center, he is absolutely as free as a person could be. Nothing can touch that. So some people who have gone through the imminent danger of death have a kind of a security afterwards that nothing can touch. I mean, they've got a kind of a strength that other people don't have because they know how much they can lose and still be all there. Which is faith, but it's a particular kind of faith. It's a particular kind of faith that comes from the experience where you know by faith also something about yourself. Another word for this freedom is perfect humility because it means a complete detachment from everything that seems to be our self but is not this. Remember that passage in St. John of the Cross. It's in the essence, Book 1, Chapter 13. In this detachment, he's talking about detachment from desires,


the spiritual soul finds its quiet and repose. For since it covets nothing, nothing wearies it when it's lifted up and nothing oppresses it when it's cast down. You get the idea of a center here, an unmoving, an unworldly center. Because it is in the center of its humility. But when it covets anything, at that very moment it becomes weary. Now the thing that astonishes us here, surprises us, is the mention of humility. Because you've been talking about desire. What do those two have to do with one another? Well somehow this point is the point of one's humility. It's the point where he really knows what he is but he can't express it and he doesn't have any image for it. But being in that place or being in touch with that center, he knows that he can let go of all of the images that he has of himself. Now this even has to do with the fear of death because consider, what we're afraid of when we're afraid of death or when we're afraid of almost anything else, is the death of a kind of image that we have of ourselves. The extinction of an idea that we have of ourselves. I think if I don't have this, I don't know, this dish of ice cream or something,


then I'm not going to exist and that's what I'm afraid of. It's a fear of death in a ridiculously small form. But in its full form, the fear of death is the fear of the vanishing of what I think I am. Because I don't really know what I am. Well, this is what I am. And if I've been there, then I know that I can let all the rest go and I'll still be there. And I'll still be there completely. One would not want to have to find out where his limits are also from time being. If he wants to go beyond giving up these things that he likes. Ah yes, that's another thing because we're not talking about what you do here. We're talking about what happens to you. In other words, if you pass through an experience like this, well you didn't have any choice anyway. But if you're doing your own mortification, you're doing asceticism, that's something else. Then you've got to measure yourself carefully with discretion. Because if you go too far, you're not going to find this. You're going to find something else.


Something else is going to take over and pull you right back. You might break. You break in some way, yes. Because, right, because it's got to be approached according to God's will. It's like, it's almost like death. It's almost like death in that you can't take your own life. But somebody's going to take your life sooner or later, right? It's the same way here. You can't really put your self to death, a false self to death, you know. But somebody's going to do it. And what you have to do really is to second the motion. You have to go along with it. But you can't do it yourself. You can do a certain amount of active asceticism. At St. John's, of course, it's called the active night. But you can't push yourself to that point. Because that's beyond our possibilities, even in that sense. You see, of getting to it, of arriving. If you do, you'll certainly break. Because only God can take us to that point. But in taking a balance, you have to know where you're indulging in that. You're indulging should be taken away.


Yes. In so far as you can. But you have to remember that there's no hard and fast straight boundary between indulgence and the satisfaction of need. For instance, if you're hungry, right? I mean, if you're really physically hungry and in need of food, you're probably going to feel pleasure when you take that food, all right? And immediately you accuse yourself of indulgence, right, because of the pleasure and even the greed, perhaps, that you experience when you're eating. But you need that food, you know. You can't divide the two perfectly far. That's a problem. But also something that you don't need. I'm thinking about what Donald Econ said about how you can believe that a citizen must believe that... Do you remember that? What did he say? About feeling anxious? Oh, yeah. There's a question... He didn't believe that a citizen really was the right way. You should wait on God to... There are several things to be said there. One thing is the special vocation of somebody like St. Francis,


and another thing is the spirit of different times. I don't think it's possible to rule out asceticism and say that you can just wait on God, because if that were true, then a lot of people would never move at all, you see. And that rejects the whole of the tradition, the whole of the monastic tradition, you see. That rejects largely monasticism, which employs at least some asceticism. So there is an act of asceticism that's necessary. But you've got to remember that what's stirring you up to that act of asceticism is God, is God's grace, you see. And ultimately it's a matter of converging with God's grace, so no longer do you seem to be doing something on your own hook, and then you find out over here how far it was with God's will. But you're so much in tune with God's will that almost everything you do is sort of directly at his leading, it's like that. And then when we really get going, I think God does most of it anyway. And it's largely a matter of letting, in this sense now, it's largely a matter of letting go of things that are being taken away anyway,


or letting go of things that God tells you you don't really need anyway, things like that, you see. Asceticism is a delicate thing. There's a way in which it's obviously always necessary. And if you look at Donald Nicklin, he's asceticism, you see. Really? Yeah. He's a living example of a person who, you could say that he just follows God, but I think he's actively quite ascetical. I don't remember his exact words, but I suspect that if one asked him about that, he would explain it a bit. But he sees asceticism in a different light. He sees it in terms of other people, actually. Another word for this freedom is perfect humility, because it means a complete detachment from everything that seems to be our self, but is not this. I think the Buddhists understand this. The idea of the non-existence of the self, and then we build up a self from,


we solidify it with various things that we see and that we grab and that we put together, and then we think that that's us. And we don't realize that it isn't until those things get taken away. So what was the name of the guy in Essendon who came up with the idea about the container? Yes, it's like that. It's analogous to that, parallel to it. He was talking about schizophrenics, and that's a little special, because it's still the ego that he's talking about, sort of the shallow stuff. This is the one thing in ourselves that we don't know, the center, this golden grain. We know it and we don't know it. We cannot reach it by any amount or any kind of study or analysis. We're digging. Not even the devil can reach it. Only God can reach it, and this is the real us, the true self. You can't have freedom to choose this. This is where all the freedom comes from. If you sit back and say, I'm going to choose to be a little son all on my own, a little son, S-U-N. This is like some of the Eastern things.


We say, we're God. Do it. Enjoy it. You're God. Imagine yourself as being the sun, and just imagine yourself with this energy streaming out of you. There's some meditation methods that are like this, and they have a certain effectiveness too, I think. The self-image of oneself as being a center of dynamic energy which just streams out all around you. Okay, go ahead and try it. He says, you'll hunt for it and never find it because you have to, so to speak, let it be. If you leave it be, it will be. And this is where choice comes in. And this is where that sort of passive or receptive, that following way of asceticism comes in. You have to school yourself in everything you do to choose in relation to what lets this be, this center. This is what the life of prayer is. Never, learning never to make choices that throw a lot of static into the reception that comes from that center. It doesn't matter how busy you are or how many things are happening to you


or how rough everything is getting or how bad everything is getting. If you choose to handle things in a certain way, you will keep constantly in contact with this center of freedom. Choosing is not just a question of I am able to choose this or I am able to choose that. I choose with a view to something that I don't choose. I choose in relation to what is. Hence the capacity to respond to what is really real, and this is the real freedom. That becomes kind of the core of Thomas Merton's spiritual theology in his last years. The notion of the true self. We'll call it the person, I'll call it whatever. The inner self. Okay. So the difference between those two kinds of freedom perhaps is clear. And this freedom of spontaneity or inner freedom is freedom of the person,


the freedom to be. So the possession of one's own energies if you want to put it that way. And it's correlative to love. I mean this is, love requires this kind of freedom because if we're not free in this way, we're not free to move out of our comfort zone or give ourselves as it were, but we're always holding on to something. We've always got some reservation or some condition. We've always got something that we have to keep in one hand and so we can't really give ourselves. We've always got a fear, really when the occasion comes up there's always some fear, some hesitation that holds us back that we're going to lose something. We're going to lose something. And it's correlative to God too who is after all, who is the one. And when we relate to God we've got to relate to him in a kind of totality. Not just with one hand or with a little bit or 30% of ourselves or something like that. Even though we do, we don't really relate to him there.


Remember the Shema in the Old Testament. Listen now Israel, the Lord your God is one God and you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole strength and everything else. Those two things go together. The Lord is one God. He's one. And you've got to be one. And that oneness is in that kind of love. Let's ask for a minute. I wonder if it's possible to pull a book on this thing. I think it's this one. Oh, it's that little book? And this freedom is a grace because somehow it's a matter of holding our whole being together and only God can hold our being together. Also, it's moving from the image to the reality. It's as if you've got these two levels. There's the external level of the image or the level of the idol also. And then there's the interior level of the reality in everything, including ourselves.


You've got to move from the external level. Remember, idols are connected with slavery in Egypt or in Babylon, with captivity. Idols dominate from somewhere. And freedom means that you get freed from getting caught by the exterior surface of the thing, by the shell of the thing, so that you can somehow move into the center of the thing, so that you can know the thing in its center, whether that be a person or whether it be a thing or whatever. Whether it be a positive thing or, as it were, a painful thing. So we're not just reacting from pleasure or from fear, to the desire or fear, but we react according to the truth of the thing, that is, the interior of the thing. Which gets us into the whole business about symbolism, that all things are symbolic. But we can't understand them as symbols, and they don't speak to us about God, and they don't speak to us of what they really are


until we get past this outside level. The level in which we're still involved in desire. And so we sort of get stopped at the outside, because either it attracts us or it scares us, turns us off, threatens us. And so we stop right there. We're not able to penetrate any further. And similarly, at that point, we're stopping on the outside shell of ourselves and not able to penetrate further. When we get into the inside of ourselves, past desire, past fear, past being threatened, past defensiveness, then also we can relate that way to other things, and to other people. So, enlightenment goes along with love, and goes along with freedom, and it's a question also of entering into this kind of symbolic understanding of creation. Remember, Evagrius talks about three things. He talks about asceticism or praxis. And then he, finally, the innermost thing, the highest thing, is the contemplation of the Holy Trinity.


But in between those two, there's what he calls his natural contemplation, Theoria Physica, which means seeing things as they really are and seeing God in them. And that's seeing things as sacraments. Seeing that everything is a sacrament, which speaks of God and somehow contains God. He doesn't use that language, you see, but that's exactly what he's saying when he says brother, son, and sister, moon, and sister, water, and so on, all those things. He's seeing God right through him, and he sees him all as related to him. He sees himself as being the same thing as they are. Because he's penetrated to the center of himself, and now he's able to relate to everything else in its center. See, without lust and without fear. And so at that point, everything is poetry for him, in a way. But poetry isn't anymore the kind of weekly thing that poetry usually is, you see, which rests upon superficial attractions and pleasures


and entertainment and so on. But poetry, which has grasped really the heart of this thing, and so it's as strong as death. And what he says is said in real love. That's the way it should be. Christianity would really like that, you see, to present a far different face to, say, the East or to young people or whatever. That's the way it's supposed to be. Is this where the East comes short? Symbolism of creation? They stop there? Is that going on? No, I think they've got this sense. When I say the East, I mean Hinduism and so on. They've got this notion. If you read Pete Griffith's book, for instance, Return to the Center, you'll find that he's got it very deeply. And a lot of it doesn't come from Christianity. It comes from the East. He sees it now in a Christian light. He sees it in a Trinitarian light, you see. But I think his consciousness developed in that direction, in India, in contact with Hinduism, because they very much got that notion. Now, we have the ideas, but the ideas get stale and are in disuse because people don't experience the reality.


And, see, the trouble with our modern world is that it completely blocks that sacramental view of reality. Why? Because we relate to reality and to nature in another way. You see, we get a bulldozer, and we scoop it up, and we smash it, and we operate with it, and we manipulate with it, you see. And doing that in such an active way, in such an aggressive way, we're unable to be receptive to reality. It's a reality that can't speak to us. We're too busy manhandling it, you see. And we do this with everything. And then we build a world around ourselves which makes reality completely opaque. We build a world around ourselves that hides nature from us. I mean, the modern cities are typical examples, with concrete and asphalt all over the place, and you can't see a tree, you know, for a while. And so nature disappears. And when nature disappears, something happens to man, too. And he can't find God anymore, because concrete doesn't speak about God, doesn't have a word to say about God. So that's something that's been impressing me more and more,


and I think that's real significant for our time, is to rediscover that sacramental view of things. Sacramental, it tends to sound like conventional Catholic theology, but you've got to realize that that word sacrament is much broader than what we're accustomed to thinking of when we think of the seven sacraments of the Church. Which is not to say that that's wrong. That's the center of it, you see, because the Eucharist is the center of the whole thing. The Eucharist is the middle of this, crowns this sacramental notion of reality for Christians. Teilhard de Chardin had a good sense of that. Even though he mixed it up with all kinds of other things, he had a real strong sense of that. And for him, the Eucharist was right on the center. This view of this sacrament in creation, it would be different for everyone, even though everyone's eyes would be open? Or is it a unit? I don't know. It would be different for everyone because it's a thing that moves with your life.


As you walk around, in other words, you would find things to be rather transparent to you. And you'd see God in them, and they'd sort of, I don't know, they'd be individuals to you. They'd be almost persons, thous to you, the way Bulwer talks. Like a tree being almost a companion. That's kind of dangerous language because it can get kind of silly, but that's the way it would be. And it would be different for everybody simply because if you were to write a poem, it would be different from the poem that anybody else wrote, right? And also, you're in a different place than anybody else, in a different concrete place, but you're in a different place in your life, too. You see, a different point of progress. Therefore, you're going to have a different kind of vision than anybody else. It's not like there's one system, now we're going to put it in a book and then everybody's going to see things that way. No. So where do we unite? The center? The center is the same in all of us. You see? So the sacramental view, for instance, when you look at things, you're going to find the same thing in the middle of them, and you're going to be seeing from the same central point in yourself, which is also the center of everybody else.


You see? It's an entirely theology or spirituality of centeredness. And whenever we're talking about the center, we're not just talking about my center or your center, we're talking about the center, you see? It's the same thing. And the whole thing is like the center in me responding to the center in things, or to the center in you. And it's always the same center. So we always find ourselves together. It's not individualistic at all, you see? Even though each one is going to be looking from a different angle and seeing things a little different, but that only enriches it, you know? And this is one thing, you see, that sort of brings in all of the variety and all of the subjective richness of the modern centuries, brings it back into Christianity, you see what I mean? Because there's room for all of the creativity and all of the varied vision that every individual has, which was not so evident in the Middle Ages and in the patristic period, where things were more uniform, they were kept more largely in a common mode. And then you had a certain few individuals who stood way up above the others


and said or wrote or, you know, expressed things. But the rest just sort of followed along like sheep. Yeah, well, that's... There's a whole lot of different situations. So, anyway, this is a little aside from what we're talking about. There's that question of the hundredfold, too, you know? What does the hundredfold mean? It's in both in St... It's in that last chapter where Cassian winds up this kind of... It's sort of the grand finale to his whole 24 conferences. It's in St. Matthew, Chapter 19. It's in Mark, Chapter 10. I'll read the version from St. Mark which he quotes here. There is no man who has left house or property, sisters or mother or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel's sake, who shall not receive a hundred times as much, now and this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come life eternal.