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Cassian Conference




Okay, this morning we wanted to start on Conference 16, which is the first conference of Abba Joseph on friendship. The second conference is on making promises, so the two are connected. And these conferences are still coming in pairs, you know, 14 and 15 were hooked up, but it's not an odd number and then an even number. It's changing now. I don't remember when it happened, but you find it in even-numbered conferences related to an odd-numbered conference, which followed, as with these two of Abba Joseph. Abba Joseph, if you look in the sayings of the Desert Fathers, you'll find on page 86 that this Joseph seems to be an Abba Joseph of Beneficence, because that's where Cashin was when he wrote these conferences,


even though the editor in the Post-Nineteen Fathers here doesn't seem to be able to put his finger on that Abba Joseph anywhere else. Now, this is a new subject, and it's kind of a surprising subject too in Cashin, because here all of a sudden we run into the, call it the horizontal dimension of the monastic life. In other words, the dimension of community, but he's talking not about community, he's talking about a one-to-one relationship. And this sort of thing, this kind of treatment is fairly unusual among the monastic writers. You find it among the non-monastic fathers, I think like the Cappadocians, you know, Gregory of Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssen and so on. They had very close, friendly relationships, and they wrote about them in lyrical terms. But it's not so frequent among the monastic fathers. You do find it in the Middle Ages among the Cistercians, especially, as you know, Elrod of Rivaux,


who wrote the Treatise on Spiritual Friendship. There's an English translation of that in the Cistercian Fathers series, number five. In fact, that's the best known and most available medieval work, Christian work on friendship. Elrod of where? Rivaux. How is it spelled? R-I-E-V-A-U-L-X. The contemporary of Saint Bernard. Would you put that in the… I'll put it on the shelf. Often when they talk about this, when they talk about these works, they go back to the pre-Christians because there were some treatises on friendship, classic ones then, and one is the one of Cicero, which I never read, I started reading it this morning. It's in the Harvard Classics, volume six, volume nine, Treatise on Friendship, probably about thirty pages long. They're very slow in getting going because they exchange a lot of aristocratic pleasantries


before they get down to business here. It's interesting. I don't know whether it's worth your while to read it. But his principle is that friendship is completely based on virtue, which is what Cassian is saying too, but he puts it in Christian terms. Now, there's probably an influence here, no doubt there's an influence, even though it may not be direct, between Cicero and Cassian. The basic principle is the same, that friendship can only be based on goodness. And the term that Cicero uses is virtue. There's typical Roman thinking, which is admirable, and yet not quite complete from a Christian point of view. Okay, in the first chapter, we get introduced to Abba Joseph, who knows not only Coptic, but also Greek, so they don't need an interpreter with him. We may have forgotten that they'd used an interpreter with most of the other fathers.


And he breaks right into his discourse on friendship here, provoked by inquiring into the relationship between Cassian and Germanus and finding that they're friends and not blood brothers. So in chapter two he says there are many kinds of friendship, and he gives a list of them. They're all on some kind of natural or casual basis. Some share good, they've got something to get out of their relationship, or it's a natural relationship of consanguinity, of kinship, some kind of a natural closeness. And indeed, even those kinds of beasts and serpents and birds which are cut off and separated from all others by their intolerable ferocity and deadly poison, as basilisks and unicorns and vultures, though by their very look they are said to be dangerous to everyone, yet among themselves they remain peaceful and harmless,


owing to community of origin and fellow-feeling. That's charming. I bet you didn't know that about basilisks. So we see that all these kinds of love of which we have spoken, as they are common both to the good and the bad, that the beasts and serpents certainly cannot last forever. And these are interrupted by a change of place or forgetfulness or when the reason for the relationship ceases. They're all generally due to different kinds of connections, either gain or desires or kinship or business. So when any occasion for separation intervenes, they're broken off. So they're casual. They're not essential, you might say. And then in Chapter 3, he gets to genuine friendship, which he says is indissoluble, which can't disappear. He's got really something to say here, and I don't think he brings it all out. There's something very significant in what he's saying there, and it relates to what he said about other things earlier on, when he talked about what is a man's own, what really belongs to him.


What really belongs to you is simply what you're attached to in your heart. So where he says what really belongs to you is your own virtue. It's not anything that you possess outside of yourself, or not even any of your gifts, in a sense. But it's only what you espouse as being virtue. Now here he's saying that the only kind of friendship which is imperishable is that which is based on a kind of identity of virtue. So he's relating back to that same interior good, which in itself is imperishable, that he was talking about before. But here he's talking about it in the context of a relationship between two people. He's talking about the same thing. He's saying it's that same thing that we're always talking about that's concerned here, and that makes the thing worthwhile, makes it valuable, makes it imperishable too, as it can't die. There's something eternal there. But he doesn't go on to talk about that very much. At least he doesn't lead the thread of conversation in that direction. He comes back to it later, perhaps we'll remember. When he comes back and he says that love is God,


that love is God, as St. John says. And that's only latent in what he's saying here, you see. But that's the basis. Among all these then, there's one kind of love which is indissoluble, where the union is owing not to any of those accidental things, but simply to similarity of virtue. At first thought we might say, well my goodness, that's just as external or accidental as any of those other things. But not the kind of virtue that he's talking about. And he's got a deep and real notion of virtue too. We tend to think of virtue as something you pick up and you add to yourself, but he's talking about virtue as something that's rooted right in the centre of the person somehow. It's really the identity of the person, much deeper than an acquired virtue of some kind. And yet it is an acquired thing, it's a mystery, isn't it? It's an acquired thing, so we'd expect it to be an external thing. But it's not an external thing, it's an essential thing. It's rooted right in the core of the person. How can that be?


Except if, in acquiring this virtue, the person is really acquiring himself, which was always there. In other words, by acquiring this virtue that he's talking about, the person is coming into contact with his real self. He's finding his roots instead of getting something from outside. He seems to get it from outside, but it's like a bird learning to fly. The bird learns to pick up the knowledge how to fly, maybe by imitating another bird, imitating its mother or something. But when it learns how to fly, it's found itself. So I get kind of fascinated by this idea of virtue that he has. This is broken by nothing, not by time or space or even death itself. So he really means it. This is true and unbroken love, which grows up by means of the double perfection and goodness of friends, and which, when once its bonds have been entered, no difference of liking and no disturbing opposition of wishes can sever. Okay, there's one thing we may find missing here.


Like Cicero, I noticed that when I was reading that thing this morning, like Cicero and most of the ancients, he seems to generalize this love as if there were nothing unique about the individual. As if what you love in the individual were virtue, were his virtue, a certain quality that he has. But don't you love the person? Doesn't friendship concern itself really with that uniqueness of the other person? I think that's kind of important, but that's a thing you don't very often find in the ancients, because that's a kind of an acquisition, I think, of gradual acquisition of Christian tradition, is that concern for the uniqueness of the individual. Not even just as being the image of God, but being an unique image of God, being himself, really, and the idea of the permanence of that self which he is. That's meant to remain, that person that he is meant to remain.


So you're not just relating to some wonderful quality of a person. You may have lots of wonderful qualities, but what's really significant is himself, which doesn't come out so much here. You get the idea of a kind of a generalized virtue. Partly that's the language, because the reality was certainly there, I think. It's partly the language in which they write, and the tradition from which they derive, too, in writing about friendship. How about when the person is not being himself? Then you've got something else, because he's still there even if he's not being himself, right? That is, he may be sick, he may be out of his head, he may be acting abnormally, and he may be drunk, something like that. But the person, he's still himself even though he's not acting as himself. And so the friendship is going to go through a storm, that's for sure,


depending on the depth of the relationship, whether it can weather that storm or not. Whether the person really loves and really is in touch with the essential person that's under that bewildering behaviour. This goes not only for when he's not acting himself, but for the changes that happen in a person. The person gets old and so on, and no longer attractive in the same way. The poets write about that a lot. They're talking about the love between man and woman. Yeats says, I only have loved the sorrows of your changing face while others have turned away. That's what he thinks. Yes, the deepest friendship would not be killed by another person's behaviour, especially if the behaviour can be disassociated from his true self. For instance, if you start behaving in a very hostile and aggressive manner and I think you mean it,


I think it's your real self, that's more damaging to the friendship than if I know it's not your real self because I know something else is affecting you, that you're out of your head or that you're intoxicated or that you're drugged or something like that. So if I can make that distinction, then that helps preserve the friendship. But otherwise, if I think you really mean it, if I think it's your deepest self that's saying that, or your whole heart or whatever, then there's a real problem. But once its bonds have been entered, no difference of liking and no disturbing opposition of wishes can sever this. But we've known many, he says, they started well on this, out of their burning love for Christ. That's the motive. And that echoes, remember, the will of Saint Benedict. Where suddenly the love of Christ becomes a generalized thing. It's not only love for Christ, but it's something that spreads out and brings people together.


They couldn't maintain it continually and unbrokenly because they didn't remain equally zealous in the purpose with which they entered the friendship. So one remained strong and firm and the other got weak. And the love wasn't maintained by the goodness of both alike. But one was strong and the other was weak, and so it has to break off sooner or later. And what he's talking about here really is zeal in seeking perfection. It's not so much the enthusiasm or the zeal in the friendship itself, but it's that zeal in the monastic vocation. It's not because the strong necessarily get tired of it, but because the weak themselves break it off. And then they attribute it to the healthy partner, as it were.


Wherefore this, he says, is the only sure and indissoluble union of friendship, where the tie consists only in likeness and goodness. And therefore love can only continue undisturbed in those in whom there is but one purpose in mind to will and to refuse the same things. That sounds very restrictive about friendship. Cannot there be friendship between people who are really very unequal in virtue or in strength? And that would sound more Christian in a way, you know, where it's not kind of a pact of heroes who can only relate to their equal, but of persons who are able to sympathize, to have compassion, to bend to the other, and so on. If I hadn't reflected on it, it would be something to think about in relation to this theory of friendship. Doesn't he talk about that later, about the other person, having to prefer the other person's will, or things like this?


He does say that, but he doesn't relate it so much to this matter. Love is probably only made real when there is a distinction and there is an effort. One thing is a distinction, and another thing is an inequality in the level of virtue or charity or whatever. We have to remember that. I think this is like the Ciceronian theory of virtue, which is a kind of a Stoic-influenced theory, no doubt, that only virtue makes this relationship possible. So, this could be considered differently in a Christian context. And also, if you ask, did Jesus have a relationship or friendship with anybody? And if he did, was it based on inequality of virtue? There seems to be something else there,


if we talk about Jesus and his disciples. So it may be that this principle won't hold up in every instance. And yet there's something very sound in it, isn't there? There's something very sound in it. What he's saying seems to be this, that he's talking about friendship in the monastic context. And in the monastic context, you cannot really relate closely to a person. You cannot be of one heart unless you're of one heart, first of all, in your monastic vocation, which means that both people have to be equally serious about the monastic life. If one of them is not, if one of them has really got another interest which undercuts or contaminates that, they won't really be able to be perfect friends. Maybe that's valid. In other words, it's almost as if he were saying they both have to be wholehearted about the monastic life, otherwise they can't really be intimate friends. Maybe that's valid. And yet, it's difficult to talk about these things,


because we don't have words to... We don't have words and we don't have schemes. We don't have pictures to explain those interior realms. When we talk about the motivations in a person's heart and the various tendencies, we tend to oversimplify them, as if they were, you know, great of perfection, you're there, and that's it. Once you're there, you're there, and you're all there. Well, it's not quite that way, because a person can be there, and he can be there, and there also. We can have our weak moments and our strong moments. A weak aspect. I talk about sub-selves that each person has. There's different selves, different persons almost, inside of them, that come out at different times. There's a certain truth to that. Anyway, I hope I've confused it enough. Well, we've got it on tape, so... That's a good principle, though, huh? If you interpret it in terms of that


wholeheartedness about the monastic vocation, the minute somebody puts a limit there to how far he wants to go, then you have a problem. And yet, that doesn't mean that the friendship has to be broken off. The friendship may be most valuable there. For instance, friend A helping friend B over a rough spot, where he's really tested in his vocation, and he doesn't see the light perfectly, okay? But then later, he may help friend A over another rough spot. It's not as if they were always like two equally strong horses running neck and neck, you know, under the same yoke. It's not quite that pattern. It's no use for those who differ in character and purpose to be united into one dwelling, nor is it a hindrance for those who are grounded on equal goodness to be separated by distance of place. For with God, the union of character, not of place. In the Latin, I believe that's mores, morum, what he calls character.


That would be ways, a way of life. Character's okay, but it's not. Or in the French, it was translated conduct in Swiss Christian. Joins brethren together in a common dwelling. Nor can unruffled peace ever be maintained where difference of will appears. Now, fortunately, Germanus has got a question here, because it's not always as simple as that. He says, well, what if one wants to do something that he thinks is useful, and the other one doesn't want to do it? What do you do in that case? He brings it right down to the practical and concrete. Because isn't it asking too much that two people have precisely the same will, that they never differ? In fact, how is that possible? Because an impulse comes to one person, it doesn't come to both of them at the same moment. What do you do in that case? Do you always defer to the other, or do you follow your own will? And in either case, there doesn't seem to be quite a perfect, perfect common movement. Chapter 5, the answer. For this reason we said that the full and perfect


grace of friendship can only last among those who are of perfect and equal goodness, whose like-mindedness and common purpose allows them either never, or at any rate hardly ever, to disagree, or to differ in those matters which concern their progress in the spiritual life. Okay, now he's restricting the argument somewhat to those things which are directly concerned with perfection, with monastic vocation, with progress in the spiritual life. So there may be a lot of irrelevant things, or lesser things, on which they might disagree. But he says, basically, they're not going to disagree on this. Well, there may be a problem here too, because they may have quite different views of certain spiritual matters, which will make it very difficult for them to get along. He talks about that later on. But certainly it's true that what he's saying is that they're going to fundamentally be in agreement about the monastic vocation itself, that they want perfection, and they want that


before everything else. And if that's true, that's going to help to make all other disagreements secondary. Okay. There's another presupposition here, which is that basically the monastic vocation is one, right? Basically it's one. Therefore, two people who really want the monastic vocation, who really want perfection, as he says it, are going to be of one mind, one will, because it's one vocation. If there were a big pluralism right in the monastic vocation, by the way, that wouldn't be possible, would it? Because they could have all sorts of different tendencies which simply wouldn't conform. But he's saying, no, the monastic vocation is one, and if you really want it, then you're going to... with that kind of wholeheartedness, then you're going to be of one mind in all of the important things with your fellows, with your brothers. If they begin to get hot with eager disputes, it's clear that they have never been at one,


according to the rule which we gave above. And then he goes on to to explain how you do this, how you get there, what the foundation is. And here he's got about six points. The first is scorn for all possessions. And then after he gets finished listing these, he goes back and he comments on each of them and brings forth scriptural arguments to support each of them, texts for each of them. The first foundation is contempt for worldly substance and scorn for the things that we possess. Well, that's also the first renunciation, renunciation of the world. And if you remember the New Testament, you get these two things said together that they sold all the things that they had and pooled their resources, right? They put all things together, all their money together, whatever. And secondly, that they were of one mind and one heart.


And the two things are very much connected because private property is a kind of a concrete material seed or nucleus around which individualism forms. It's the first root of individualism, setting aside something like marriage and family. So, preferring some kind of possession to one's brother is the first big obstacle. In that sense, then communism would be valid alternative to... No, actually the Apostle is communism, right? That is, the Jerusalem community is community of goods, which is communism. But there's an enormous difference between communism based on what? Based on the grace of God, which is flowed into people,


so that in that superabundance of grace they don't put value on their individual possessions anymore, and atheistic communism, which is based on an out-and-out materialism. There are kind of mirror images, but one is a darkened mirror image of the other. Theistic communism, based really on the reality of God, which is shared. The reality of God, which is shared, makes people despise everything else. Isn't that it, in a nutshell? That the reason why they can give up their possessions and put them all in common is simply because they have God, and so they don't really care about anything else. And since they have God in common, looking at it from the other point of view, putting their possessions in common is a kind of a concrete material sacrament of that possession, of that oneness of God, right? Whereas atheistic communism, it's something entirely different. I'd have to reflect a little though


on the philosophy of Marxism to see how it relates exactly. But his first principle is that God doesn't exist, isn't it? And that the ultimate reality is a material reality. And that that belongs to everybody. So instead of basing your communism, your communion of goods, on the sharing of God, you base it on the sharing of the earth, I presume. That is, the earth belongs to all men in common, and therefore they should share their goods. That's true, isn't it? So it's still a higher form than what's lived in the West in most parts. No, insofar as... You can say higher form on the material level, on the economic level, well, maybe. But insofar as a total philosophy, no, because in being based on the rejection of the existence of God, it's inherently perverse in that way, you see. A Marxism or a communism of goods


which admitted the existence of God, or allowed that, could compete with capitalism, okay? But not one which at the outset rejects the existence of God. Because then necessarily it becomes an upside-down thing, a perverse thing, a destructive thing. The second thing is for each man so to prune his own wishes so that he may not imagine himself to be a wise and experienced person, and so prefer his own opinions to those of his neighbor. So the second is a kind of a humility of mind by which I don't think necessarily the first, the idea that comes into my head is the best idea. This may remind you of a certain place in the rule of St. Benedict, that he said, the chapter that we're just starting on now, chapter seven on humility, where to have a low opinion, to dislike one's own desires


and to have a low opinion of one's own ideas are almost the same thing. They're around the second and third degrees of humility. To love one's own will and to love one's own opinions are just about the same thing, okay? Because your will forms, solidifies around your opinions, the way you think things should be. So humility of mind, of intellect and humility of will are almost the same thing. He talks more about this afterwards. The third basis is an order of priorities in which love and peace concord are put in first place. And the fourth is that he has to have a principle that he never gets angry for any reason. Even if the anger is justified, he doesn't get angry. I mean, you know, justified rationally. You can give good reasons for it. This is the thing that astonishes us when the Fathers talk about anger.


They say, my anger is justified. This is, I've been wrong. They say, no, your anger is never justified. You can be mad at the devil and that's all. If you read Maximus the Confessor of Agris and people like that. So this order of priorities, later on he puts it in other terms. The order of priorities is to say nothing is superior to love, nothing is to be preferred to love. And here, once again, we hear an echo of St. Benedict, don't we? Prefer nothing to the love of Christ. And nothing is worse than anger, than discord, than hatred and resentment. So that really gives you two poles for your scale of values. Fifth. You don't even banish, exclude anger from your own heart, but you feel responsible for the anger of your brother. Okay? It's not enough for me


not to have anything against my brother, but if he's got something against me, I have some kind of responsibility to clear that up. And that's not easy. It's not easy. No, we consider ourselves lucky if we can get off with our own skin, you know, without being mad at somebody, without having to go and worry about him. Why doesn't he take care of himself? It's his fault, after all. Why should I go? Famous last words. It's his fault. Yeah. It's his fault. I'm not mad at him, but we'd better not do it again. And that comes from the Gospel too, as he points out later on. Now, here's the last one. The last, and he says, this is decisive for all faults, that he should realize daily that he is to pass away from this world. He says, this not only excludes anger, but represses all the emotions of lust and sins of all kinds. And if you try it, I think it's true. It doesn't automatically,


and for all time, finish the anger or the other passion. But it enables you to find a vantage point beyond it. You see? It enables you, it's like standing on a mountain and looking down at it and saying, well, it's only that big, you know. It's not as big as I thought it was. In other words, you become freed from that passion by thinking of death, by looking at whatever it is, the situation, the event, the injury, from the incident, from the standpoint of death. Now, it seems very negative, death, here we go again. But we're not talking about death. When you say death, what are you talking about? You're saying, you don't look at it anymore from standing on the earth, but you look at it from the point of view of transcendence, from the point of view not of relatives, but of the absolute. And from the point of view of the absolute, everything else is relativized and becomes very small. Well, the thought of death is a concrete way of doing that. Put yourself at the end, and it works too. You put yourself, you have an argument, you know, you get in a fight with somebody, and then think, well, how am I going to feel


about this at the last moment? We're both going to be dead in thirty years, and how is this going to look? And immediately, the light comes, and you know, there's no place for that anger. We'd better make up because it's a short trip. So that's a very practical and meaningful pointer. Then he talks about the devil, who is jealous of love. That's a good expression. I didn't look it up in the... I didn't look it up in the Latin. He who is jealous of love infuses the poison of vexation in the hearts of friends, as if he couldn't stand the presence of love, because the presence of love is the presence of God, and the presence of God and that, evidently, is jealous of love. It's a good expression, because he's incapable of love, so love would infuriate him. Jealous of love,


jealous just of the possibility, the existence of love, it infuriates him because it's the most precious thing of all, and he himself can't realize it. And he will try to simulate it, to imitate it, to counterfeit it, but also try to destroy it. And very often, he destroys it by counterfeiting it, by offering somebody a false kind of love in place of the true love, which is the only thing that warms the heart, which is the only thing that makes man what he's supposed to be. And the only thing that shows up the devil, really, because it puts a person in a place where he can judge everything else. He says, well, nothing else is as good as this, including the things I thought I was in love with. And then he goes on and brings in his scriptural quotes. The first one from the Acts of the Apostles is about detachment from private property. And that's a basic principle for Saint Benedict too. That's why he's so harsh on any kind of private ownership.


Because he's talking about private ownership of yourself in the end. It's expressed in materials. Yes, it's expressed in material things on the first level. But even if you don't have any material things of your own, you can be just as fiercely attached to something on the spiritual level. And that's harder to see and therefore it's harder to get rid of. It's easier to give up an external object than it is to give up something that you really identify with yourself, you know. It can be an opinion, it can be a gift, it can be a habit. But wouldn't you think that the exterior things should first be put aside so you can see these things? Right. No, that's the principle. You start with the material things. And so the first renunciation is to give up the world and all possessions – all worldly possessions. And without that you can't really get into the other thing. It's easy to go from the material to the spiritual. Okay, we can probably... The scriptural quotes are good, but we don't need to go through all of them.


Chapter 7 is a kind of a recapitulation in a nutshell of a couple of the points that he had above. He says that nothing should be put before love. And that, remember, echoes Conference 1 and the whole series of the conferences, but the first one on the goal of the monastic life, where he keeps repeating that again and again. So, on the other hand, nothing should be put below rage and anger. And we seem to hear an echo of two kingdoms here, the kingdom of heaven, where love reigns, and the kingdom of hell, really, where there's nothing but anger and rage. Because anger and rage are kind of a taste of hell, an anticipation of hell in the heart. And, of course, this needs to be qualified somehow, because it might lead a person to be, what we call, completely obsequious


and ingratiating and complacent and never to stand up for the truth. Is there such a thing as a righteous anger? Is there such a thing as a righteous anger? Evidently there is, because the Lord was angry at one time, righteously. But one thing is righteous anger, which is instrumental for a moment and which is under control. And another thing is that smoldering, lingering flame of resentment in somebody's heart, which poisons a relationship and closes the person and closes the heart towards the other. That's another thing. But where there's a clear wrong, anger, unfortunately, can be justified, and in a way it's necessary to get us moving. It's a very... It's a different kind of anger. It's a different kind of anger, yeah. Maybe chemically, physiologically maybe it's the same thing, but psychologically it's a different kind of anger. Not avenging anger


or anything like that. It's more sorrowful. What's the bad kind of... What's the worst kind of anger? It's the kind of anger that wants to injure the other person, wants to destroy the other person, isn't that right? And what's the least offensive or best kind of anger, if you want to put it that way? It's the instinctive anger which flares up... I don't want to say just instinctive, but it's the anger against injustice, it's the anger against an evil, right? Anger against an evil, anger against sin, which is a reaction to or a manifestation of what? Love for good, right? So there's a kind of anger that springs from the love for good because good is threatened, okay? Is that possible? And there's another kind of anger which aims at the destruction of a hated person. Now those two are poles apart, I think.


How is it manifested then? Because you would think that if you practice good bit by bit, anger could not find... the anger that we think of could not find its place at all anymore, as if it would have died out after practice of good. But it seems that it doesn't die out entirely. It doesn't die out entirely. But if you get angry, you just don't know how to... I think the root is still there. The root is still there because it's a kind of a human instinct. But one can be so ripened and matured and educated and trained that it very rarely... that hardly any occurrence, hardly any event or stimulus brings it out, okay? Because he's under such control that almost nothing can trip it. And yet there may still be something that can trip it. If he were put to the greatest test,


he might be strongly tempted to anger. If a person was tortured or something like that, he might be tempted to anger against God in that moment, even though he might not give in. Because the instinct is still there. That defensive instinct which is pretty deep because, after all, what are we defending in the end? We're defending life, you know? So it's attached to the instinct for life, I think, for self-preservation. So it's not easy for that to be eradicated. It can't be uprooted, I don't think. I think that one moment or two elements of it are that you're detached from it. You're detached from the anger itself. And that also it's not really directed at a person but at a condition. In a sense it's... I think that's true. In a way it's hard to be detached from it because when we're angry


it's us that's angry until we take a certain point of view towards it and let ourselves be angry or not let ourselves be angry, right? To be in control is in some way to be detached from it. To be able to turn it on or turn it off. One of the Hassid masters, I remember, says, Well, now I have my anger in my pocket and when I want I take it out and use it. It takes a long while to get to that point. Because usually it flares up, you know, it's spontaneous, it's instinctive. It's not something we can say, Well, now I want to be angry so I'm going to let it go. And yet, what you say is right there. There can be a position of control. You can get behind it. I'm not very acquainted with that experientially but I'm sure it's true. It's something to look into. And also to take one's person involved in it.


Because I would say that after so much practice of non-anger that it would find no place anymore. You would just... Yeah. I don't think you can kill it entirely, as I said before. It can be sublimated. It has to be transformed into something else too because there's a kind of an energy there, as it were, that has to find its place. There's a whole side of our personality which is connected with anger and that kind of energy, also energy of the will. So it can be turned into something else. And I think anger is meant to be a motivating energy. It's meant to be a kind of engine in us but not as anger, as something else. In other words, it has to be transmuted into another kind of energy. Fear. You can say the same thing about fear. They're in the same family, the two of them. There's a lot written about anger nowadays. We've got several little books in the library.


One called The Angry Book. There's a whole assertiveness therapy, for instance, which tells you, well, you've got to express your emotions, you've got to bring them out. That's only one kind, assertiveness therapy, and that's maybe pretty sound, a lot of it. But the idea that it's destructive to repress your emotions, even emotions of anger. And maybe, first of all, emotions of anger. It's destructive to repress them. What does that mean? So they say you've got to express them. It's destructive too. Yeah, well, it can be destructive too. You can destroy somebody else expressing them. And yourself at the same time. And yourself at the same time. So they try to find harmless ways of expressing them, like beating a pillow or something. They do that. They do that every time. I threw a grapefruit once. That wasn't in the manual. Grapefruit. And there's truth in that,


but it's very tricky, because if you train a person simply to act spontaneously all the time, you're turning them into an animal. So, what is the answer there? I'm afraid it's kind of complex. You have to distinguish between suppression and repression. And repression is hiding something and not letting yourself become conscious of it. In other words, you conceal from yourself the fact that you're angry because you know that good boys and monks and so on aren't supposed to get angry. Well, I'm never angry, of course. I don't have anything against you. There's that, and then there's allowing your anger to surface and then disposing of it rationally, you see. Permitting yourself to become aware of it, but not expressing it in the instinctive, spontaneous way. And that seems to be the right way, not only with anger, but with other things as well, with other kinds of emotional impulses. But bit by bit, by doing that,


by being observant to it, it would somehow, you would just, at least as much, as more you go on that road, it would disappear more and more. If you're aware of it, you just... I think you get it more and more integrated. Let's say that. Now, what happens to it eventually, I'm not sure. Because remember that when we talk about anger as being an instinct, think of physical pain, okay? Think of physical pain, which is a natural reaction. Can you ever, by anything you can do, get to the point where you don't feel physical pain anymore? Sometimes. Well, they do apply. You can detach your, you know, in some state of yoga or something, disconnect your nervous system, maybe something like that. I mean, in ordinary... Not just ordinary, but even in monastic life as we know it, spiritual life as we know it. No, it's always there. It seems to have been there for, you know, Christ at the end of time, on the cross. Anger is something like that. So there's a part of it which is almost material, is so natural.


And yet, the principle seems to be to not to extinguish that natural thing entirely, but to know how to deal with it. And to know how to let it surface and then let it transform itself into something else. That seems to me... It seems to be a question of transformation. I don't want to pretend to give any oversimple answers here, because I don't understand it anyway. It's not as simple as just banishing, banishing anger, and saying, no, you can't exist or you don't exist. It seems that there are dangers in that. Because a lot of people, they say that repressed anger leads to depression. What happens, they say, when you repress anger towards another person, you have no way of expressing it. And so, continually, you seem to be the underdog in a relationship. And you don't permit yourself to feel the anger, you just push it down. What happens is you get angry at yourself, and after a while you can't stand yourself. And therefore you become depressed.


And all of this is unconscious, you don't realize what's happening. It's just that a cloud of gloom settles over you, and you have a kind of contempt for yourself. You see, that's what happens. It seems to be fairly well substantiated. They have this thing now of healing memories, you know, and all this, and there's a sort of manner of meditation or whatever that you go through. Right. Especially through relationship with your parents and all this. Right. And it seems to work for many people. That seems to be kind of a short circuit for them. And lifting it up to God, you know. Yes. He takes care. And when they do that, sometimes they have to go through part of the agony, they have to re-experience the events sometimes too. This is also true in some kinds of therapy. They're not charismatic. They're not spiritual. Primal therapy and so on. Primal screening. Yes, primal screening. Radix. I don't know about that. Radix. There's a whole flock of them. Yes, to get into that very primal sound


that each of us have. And that's part of the therapy. And so you get into that sound. You say the first outrage. And Saint Paul had lots of anger. Read his letter to the Galatians. Yes. So it's not a simple matter. Chapter 8. A dispute can arise, however, even among spiritual persons, not only because of material and petty things. He says, The enemy separates brethren who are still... And notice how he puts the devil at the source of all discord of this kind. I think that's true. I think there's a kind of a cloud, a shadow, that is cast by the devil over a relationship which can be pure misunderstanding, you know? No reason for a lot of these things. They just happen. Discord and things. And the way that we think about one another.


You can say it's a psychological mechanism, but I think there's something beyond it there, too. There's something that's trying all the time to destroy love, to destroy unity. So the devil separates the beginners, the weak, the carnal, by little things, material things. But even between spiritual persons, on the ground of some difference of thoughts, in other words, they see things differently, different points of view, different ideas and impulses in the spiritual life. Chapter 9. How to get rid of these higher grounds of discord. There's no use just to get rid of the material things, the possessions. Unless we... And he doesn't answer the question fully there.


Unless we cut off in like manner the second, which generally arises under the guise of spiritual feelings. In the Latin, that is... It's not feelings. It's spiritualium sensuum, sensuum. And sensus means view. It means, in the French it's translated opinion. View. So it's not so much feelings, but... A sense of emotions. And unless we gain in everything humble thoughts and harmonious will... Humble thoughts, the word there, the noun there, is the same as the one they use for feeling. Sensus, you see. It's more... So it's related to that pointer... What is it? The second one there, on humility of the mind, in Chapter 7. And now he gets back into a path which is going to be a familiar one for us, in Chapter 10. He remembers in his youth, when he first thought of...


associating with another monk. Now, notice how they decide to be monks together there. Kind of unfamiliar pattern for us. The two of them. So, to help one another in the vocation. And when they got together and began to discuss things, however, they found that some of their ideas, and especially when they exposed them to the community, to the elders who were wild, were not the impulses of the Spirit. Even though, before, they had seemed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, he's saying that there are things which seem to come from God and which do not. And things which are, in fact, demonic and seem to come from God. This is hard for us to believe. It's hard for us to judge our own experience in that way. And yet, time proves it.


We can be completely obsessed, or completely persuaded by a certain thought. It may seem like the only thing to do. It's just the right thing to do. It lines up with my whole life. And being led to this by the Holy Spirit. And then, look back at it a few weeks later, and we'll say, well, that was a deception. That was a mistake. It was a big illusion. Our mind is that way, that we can be filled with a notion which is not necessarily a true notion. Filled with an impulse which seems to glow and to gleam. And yet, it's not from the Spirit. So, now we get back into what he was talking about in an earlier conference. Remember the second one on discretion? Discretion, where he says, if you want to avoid being deceived by the devil, you've got to expose your thoughts and your impulses to someone else. To the elders, he said.


And so, they ordered that neither of us should trust to his own judgments more than to his brothers, if he wanted never to be deceived by the craft of the devil. So, the elders lay this down when they go through that process of exposing their thoughts, having them judged. That there, between the two of them, when they're not with the elders, between the two of them, they're to give the views of each of them equal value, as it were. Or, one is not to prefer his own view to that of the other. That sounds like just going around in circles with language, but there's a meaning in it. In other words, to dialogue in a certain way. As if my view were no more my view than my brother's view is, and vice versa. Somehow to find a way to put the two disagreeing views on the same level, and then to talk about them. That kind of detachment.


So, in chapter 11, he repeats much of what he had said in chapter, in Conference 2 on Discretion. Now, here, notice he puts the thing in kind of a horizontal dimension, because he's talking about a relationship, after he's talking about a relationship between two brothers. And so, as you get discernment by going to the elder, if you are alone. So, when two of you are living together, the same function, to some extent, is fulfilled by putting your two views side by side, by opening your thoughts to your brother, and seeing how he feels about the other. The whole principle being this self-judgment, or complete confidence in one's own judgment is the sure way to be deceived by the devil. Again, it's simply a question of self-transcendence, another aspect of it. Chapter 12


The better part of discretion is to be found in the judgment of another, rather than in his own. It doesn't mean that the other one is always right, it just means that we have a natural propensity to err on the side of our own, on the side of our own idea. Chapter 12, he says, Sometimes, often the brighter ones are misled. And those who are simpler see things more clearly, more truly. Because it's true that the brighter one, the one who has a more lively mind, is apt to be hypnotized by the liveliness of his own mind. So he goes off after that, whereas the other person stays with the truth because he hasn't got anything else. He stays with the simple reality and doesn't entertain himself with, you know, with that intellectual activity. So the mind can be not only revealing,


but the mind can be obscuring. The mind can be a screen of darkness as well as a source of light. Almost as often one as the other. And knowing one thing can bind us to another thing. One piece of knowledge can obstruct a more important piece of knowledge because we get hypnotized by what we know. It's another case of possessiveness, and so the remedy is detachment, of course, once again, from what we have, I think we have. And so, he says, you always have to open your thoughts to your brother and be ready to accept what he has to say. The other risk being pride and deceit and conceit. I give the example of Saint Paul. And Paul didn't go up right away, though, to compare his Gospel with the Apostles after some years. Chapter 13


Love does not only belong to God, but is God. So here's really the principle of what has come before. Although here's a sharp change in subject, in subject matter. He's been talking about this deception and the need for being humble in your mind and opening your thoughts to others. Now he starts a new subject, and he comes right in with this basic principle. Quotes the first letter of Saint John. God is love. Therefore he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in it. This is beautiful. For it is the same thing as if he said that God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. And who also makes intercession for us. Here's one of those cases in which it's valuable to look at the scriptural passages that he's quoted rather carefully, in other words, Father, Devil, Grace existed. The link between those two, for instance. The one from Romans 5 and the one from Romans 8.


The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And he says the Holy Spirit dwells in us and prays in our hearts. So the heart is the dwelling place of God. And this presence is manifested by prayer but manifested by love, chiefly. And this love is the friendship that he's talking about. So the substance of this friendship is God. It goes far beyond, I think, what Cicero was talking about. Now here, up to now, in these conferences that we've read, is the strongest horizontal emphasis of Gashem, right? Because remember how vertical he was in the first conference when he talked about charity and equated charity with contemplation and with what? Contemplation with prayer. And in Conferences 9 and 10 where it's the same thing.


As if charity were purely vertical between you and God. Now here he's talking about it in the horizontal dimension and yet it's the same love that he's talking about. And then he talks about different grades of love. Probably we'll quit after this one because I'm going to stretch on two. There are a number of things you could refer to. I'll give you some references later on just in case you want them. One book is by C.S. Lewis called The Four Loves. I don't know if any of you have read that, have you? It's a good book. He talks about friendship. He talks about agape, which is the peculiarly Christian love in the New Testament. And he talks about affection, which he thinks of in sort of a weak way, I think. And eros, which is the sexual love especially. And his chapter on friendship is quite beautiful. Now, Cashion in this chapter is talking about agape and he's talking about diathesis or affection.


Now, he seems to give kind of short shrift to agape. I don't know if this chapter squares perfectly with the preceding chapter over the rest of his conference, as a matter of fact. So the first kind is agape. It's possible then for all to show that love which is called agape, of which St. Paul says, let us do good to all men, but especially to them that are of the house full of faith. And this should be shown to everybody and even to our enemies. For the Lord says, love your enemies. But affection, diathesis in the Greek term, is shown to but a few and those who are united to us by kindred dispositions or by a tie of goodness. Now, indeed affection seems to have many degrees of difference. Now, you could write a book on the relationship between these two kinds of love that he's talking about, right? And he hasn't worked out the connections and the problems here, but there are a lot of them. Books have been written on it. Books have been written on the connection, the relationship between eros and agape to the defense book by this nigerian. You've probably heard of eros and agape.


And what's the relationship between natural love, the love of affection, the love of feeling, spontaneous love, and the love which is described and commanded us in the New Testament, in the Gospel, in St. Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles? Are they one thing? Can they really coincide? Are they a continuum so that you can go from one to the other? Or are they really two different things which contrast sharply? For instance, is sexual love, really, does it have anything to do with the love that's talked about in the Acts of the Apostles? Or the love to which Jesus enjoins us in the Gospel? Do they have anything to do with one another? Is there anything in common? Is, for instance, a love which seems to be self-centered, which is seeking my own pleasure, which is a love purely of emotion, does it have anything in common with the love that's talked about in the New Testament, which is love for one's enemies, or a love which gives without receiving?


What's the relation between those two things? That's not an easy question. People have really busted their brains over that question, right down through the centuries. There's another good book on the subject, which is one by Joseph Pieper, entitled About Love. I don't know that anybody's answered the question yet, because to answer the question requires that we get pretty deeply into the reality, I think, existentially and not just mentally, because love doesn't yield itself very well simply to rational thinking. But the relationship between feeling, between affection, between the spontaneous element and – call it the theological element if you want, the gospel element – the fact of love as being God himself coming into his creation, as it were, and drawing it together, and the fact of the cross somewhere in the middle between those two. Because the cross is supposed to be the ultimate manifestation of love.


Now, what does that have to do with the spontaneity of the love, of the affection between friends or between two fiancées or something like that? If you work on those questions, it leads you pretty deeply into the meaning of human nature, of man, what he's made of and how he operates in it. So we've got agape, which is the love of the New Testament. We've got this affection, which is the love between people who are close. So it's a natural love and it's a love which is reflected in our feelings. Love for our parents, our wives, our brothers, our children. And these kinds of loves are unequal. Now, if we compare this chapter with the chapter that he... that earlier chapter, where he talks about those inferior kinds of love, which are based just on kinship or something like that, we might find a little conflict.


I didn't compare the two. Because here he's talking about, somehow, an affection which is joined to God's love, which is joined to charity and so on, which is part of it. He's saying that these are both part of your love. There's one part which is equal for all, and there's another part which differs according to the degree of closeness, kinship, and the degree of feeling, of emotion. He gives examples in the Scriptures. Jacob had twelve sons, but he loved Joseph more than the others. Then he loved Benjamin. It didn't mean that he didn't love the others, but he had a special kind of love for this. He had one kind of love for the others, and then there was another kind of love added for Joseph. The example of John was loved in a special way by Jesus, and so on. This love of one in particular did not indicate any coldness in love for the rest, but only a fuller and more abundant love towards the one, which the prerogative of virginity, which is credited to Saint John,


and the purity of his flesh bestowed upon him. But do we have to say that the love which comes from Jesus is merited by anything in the person to whom it comes? Yes. Because that's another thing about this, the two kinds of love. One kind of love is because I find something valuable in the other person. That virtue that Gautam was talking about is something else. I find something which is worthwhile in the other person. And secondly, which makes that other person valuable for me, because it's valuable for me to associate with a virtuous person. I gain by that. Somehow, maybe, a little of his virtue shines into me. The other kind of love, which is usually identified with agape, is love not because of the good which I already find in the other person, which is a good for me, because it can give me something, but the love which flows freely and plants the good there in the other person.


The love which carries the good with it. This is God's love, agape. The love which, instead of finding worth in the other, puts worth in the other. You can also say there's a kind of love which doesn't find the worth there actually, but only potentially. And so brings, I don't know, somehow God's view and God's love with it, that it brings out the worth which is latent and invisible in the other person. There's a human, a very Christian love of that kind. Because there's got to be something there if that gratuitous love is going to come. What's the use of loving a rock, for instance? Can God's love come in and surround a stone, or a dog, or something like that? Well, in a certain sense, but maybe not fully.


That is quite satisfactory, isn't it? They're sustained by God's love, like everything else. Yeah, but to what extent can they really receive it? There's got to be some value, some capacity there for that love to come in and find its full flow, its full radiance. But man, being the image of God, no matter what he looks like, no matter how miserable he may seem to be, he's got that in him, doesn't he? So that God's love can come in, and no matter what value he seems to have externally, no matter what he's done to himself, he's still got that radical capacity of being God's image to contain God. God can pour himself into that man completely. So it's not a case of God finding something worthwhile there, as it were, and loving him because of that, except that he finds his own image there. And because of the image there, the capacity of the presence is there too. So God's love can really come in there and fully pour in any man. How do you come to allow that love to possess you?


That's a whole other 23 conferences. That's the monastic journey, in a way. Another relationship between spontaneity and the theological character of love is fascinating too. It's a commandment at first, and you've got to do it, and it's kind of a joke to say that love can be a commandment. But then it becomes a spontaneous thing, and God's love begins to flow into man's poor, stumbling attempts. Then he quotes the Song of Songs here, but if you look it up you'll be disappointed because you won't find what he has here. Set in order love in me. That's a beautiful expression. But in the RSV, for instance, it says, You have raised over me your banner of love, or something like that. That's the Septuagint translation, the Greek translation.


It may have been in the Bulgarian or Latin too, but it's not in the modern translations. Now, what he means is there's an order in love. Love is not just indiscriminate and it's not just equal for everybody. But there's an order in it. There's a priority, a hierarchy. So it loves everybody. It hates no one. That's the first level, he says. Nobody is hated, and that's what he calls agape. The second level is that it singles out for itself some who are especially close, some kind of kindred. For instance, the apostles of Jesus, the close disciples of Jesus. But thirdly, among those who are close, there will be one or more who are the closest, in which there's a kind of a unique relationship. We may be a little dissatisfied with what he said about agape. Was agape just loving everybody equally? My goodness, that's a minimal... In other words, he's giving a minimal quality to agape there, as it were. So, you can see he hasn't worked out all the problems in this chapter, but you can see why too, because they're not easy.


You could write a book on those problems. And then he turns to certain false kinds of peace and so on, which we can talk about next time. Next time, maybe we can try to finish this conference and possibly start on the next one. He's got some funny things there in this following chapter, a simulated psalmody. Somebody goes off and says psalms, hating his brother in his heart. He says, no, no, you can't do that. Well, and some of them aren't psalms, so enhance that. That's right, yeah, he did point that out. He's got some psalms, just the right ones to say. Let his wife be a widow, let his child be orphans, let his house fall on his head. Let his toilet pan over.


That's the good one.