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OS (Commentary) -- 5

19 If, cutting off somewhat the causes of the passions, we occupy ourselves with spiritual contemplations but we do not pass our time in them, having this very thing as our work (ergon), we easily are turned round again to the passions of the flesh, reaping from there nothing other than the complete darkening of the mind (nous) and a turning aside to material things.

It is useful to present the complete text of St Maximos as given in the Philokalia:[1]

III, 69 If, cutting off for a bit the causes of the passions, we occupy ourselves with spiritual contemplations, but we do not ever pass our time in them, having this very thing as our work (ergon), we easily are turned round again to the passions of the flesh, reaping from there nothing other than mere gnosis with conceit; of which the end is the darkening bit by bit of this very knowledge and the complete turning aside of the mind (nous) to material things.

We have italicized the differences between the two versions of the text of St Maximos. It may be that St Hesychios had another manuscript before him or that the text of OS has suffered in transmission, but if St Hesychios, in fact, made the changes, then he has somewhat softened St Maximos’ dire warning.

‘Cutting off for a bit the causes of the passions’: This could be taken to mean ‘having achieved dispassion to some extent’, but we wonder if that is what is meant, at least by St Hesychios in quoting this chapter. This phrase might here best be interpreted ‘removing somewhat the external causes of the passions’.

‘We occupy ourselves with spiritual contemplations’: If we take the previous phrase to mean ‘having achieved dispassion to some extent’, then this could well mean just what it says—an occupation with natural contemplation. If however, the previous phrase means ‘removing somewhat the external causes of the passions’, then this phrase would mean ‘engaging in spiritual ascesis, that is to say, the immaterial war of praktike’.

‘Reaping from there’: This ‘there’ should be taken to refer, in both interpretations, to our transient occupation with spiritual contemplations or spiritual ascesis.

In our view, this passage is intended neither by St Hesychios nor by St Maximos as a call for the beginner to occupy himself with exalted contemplations to the exclusion of the immaterial war. Rather, here, we see it as a call for the beginner to occupy himself with the immaterial war. To occupy oneself at an early stage with contemplations is dangerous and foolhardy, and other, later, authors in the Philokalia say so. The reason is what Evagrius says in TPL 61:

61 The mind will not advance nor depart that good departure[2] and come to be in the land of the bodiless [powers][3] if it has not corrected what is within.[4] For the disturbance of the familiar [parts of the soul] is accustomed to return it [i.e. the soul] to those things [i.e. the passions] from which it has departed.

St Hesychios has placed his quotation from St Maximos between his series of chapters which summarizes the four or five aspects of his method of sobriety, and the next chapter, which turns to exactly the same topic as the previous series. We can infer that St Hesychios understands ‘if … we occupy ourselves with spiritual contemplations’ to refer to the practice of sobriety that he is discussing and not to exalted natural contemplations and Theology, even if, perhaps, that is what St Maximos had in mind when he himself wrote the chapter.

We think that what St Hesychios intends is this: If a monk or layman begins to travel on the road of sobriety and then stops, he will accomplish nothing. He will only darken his mind and he will end by turning exclusively to material or worldly things.

This chapter of OS is very important.

There is a very great danger today when we are somewhat more frivolous because of our modern urban consumer culture that we might expect the spiritual life to be both easy and an unmitigated pleasure. We come to the monastery, become monks and then find that monasticism is harder, not easier, than life in the world. Monasticism as obedience, and, above all, as praktike, as the practical life, as the fourfold Hesychian sobriety that we have just discussed. So what do we do? We give up. St Hesychios is referring to this. St Maximos is referring to this. The Elder Joseph the Hesychast (†1959) refers in his letters to the monks who become gardeners having attempted Hesychasm and found it difficult—mere gardeners in monks’ clothes.[5]

The Gospel refers to this.

When the unclean spirit has come out of a man, it goes through waterless places, seeking repose, and not finding [repose], it says “I will return to my house from which I have come out.” And coming, it finds [its house] swept and adorned. Then it goes and takes to itself seven other spirits more wicked than itself; and entering in it dwells there, and the last things of that man become worse than the first.[6]

The service of tonsure refers to this:

For the danger is not small to you who have professed to keep all the aforesaid [vows] afterwards to make very little account of the profession and either to run back towards the previous life or to be separated from the Father [Superior] and from the brothers who are together exercising ascesis or, remaining, even to live your days contemptuously; since you will have weightier responsibilities than before at the frightful and undeceiving judgement seat of Christ, in proportion to the greater grace you now enjoy; and it were better for you, as the saying is, not to vow than to vow and not to render [your vows]. Again, do not at all think that, through the time which has passed of your sojourn in this place [i.e. in this monastery], you have struggled adequately against the invisible powers of the enemy, but know that rather from the present time there will succeed to you greater struggles in the battle against him [i.e. the enemy]. However, he [i.e. the enemy] in no way prevails against you when he finds you to have been fenced about by strong faith and charity towards him who guides you and by the uprightness which is towards every obedience and humility.[7]

Of course, St Hesychios, by means of the quotation from St Maximos, is speaking more specifically about the life of spiritual ascesis. The danger, however, is there, and today more than in other days. For the monastic way is not the way of the world, and the world today has very great force, so that men even from pious Orthodox families are unable to shoulder the burden and fall.

What can be done?

We would suggest two things. First, does the man have a vocation? Or is he merely enchanted by the camaraderie of the monastery, especially in contrast to the fragmentation and anomie of the city? For enthusiasm, we have heard an experienced Athonite Abbot say, is good only for five years in an Athonite monastery (and, a fortiori, everywhere else). After that, you must have grace. We would continue: Grace does not prevent the battle—which can be far more serious than a layman can suppose, even living as a postulant among monks—but it makes possible the victory. If you do not have grace, if the battle was entered into in naïve enthusiasm, if you do not have a true vocation (you might have another vocation), what are you going to do when the camaraderie grows wearisome, the hymns routine, the chanting dull? Are you going to struggle? Or turn round as St Hesychios, through St Maximos, is cautioning you not to do?

Monasticism is a difficult vocation. As we have already remarked elsewhere, St John of Sinai in the Ladder of Divine Ascent comments that if God revealed to laymen how difficult the monastic vocation really was, no one at all would become a monk.[8]

St Benedict of Nursia (c.480–c.550) in his Rule admonishes that the novice be taught the difficult things of the monastic life.

It is a struggle. One must enter into the struggle with his eyes open.

Second, if the man has a vocation, is it to this monastery and to this form of spirituality? There are various monasteries: some are more severe, some more lenient; some more active, some more contemplative; some more social, some more quiet. St John of Sinai, again, speaks of fitting the place to the person’s character.[9] This is surely not a matter of psychological testing but—to the extent that we have it—of spiritual discernment. Where is the vocation going to thrive, and that in God’s sight?

Moreover, in the monastery, will the postulant be pointed towards a cœnobitical formation—strict obedience and the memory of death—or a more Hesychast formation—the Jesus Prayer with or without severe obedience? The point is that not everyone can shoulder strict, severe obedience, and not everyone can become oriented to Hesychasm.

So we are saying that having established—through prayer on the part of the Abbot—that there is a vocation to the monastic life, and that it is towards our monastery, then, in prayer and discernment we must assess what formation is appropriate to the postulant before us. Not everyone can be a Hesychast; it would be wrong to point someone in that direction, only to have him turn round, as St Hesychios quotes St Maximos to say, to the passions of the flesh. It would be better for him not to commence the road that St Hesychios is describing than to stop halfway.

Of course, a man may have a vocation; and to this monastery; and to the Hesychast model of St Hesychios. That does not necessarily mean that he will not fail. Free will enters in. But it behoves us to prepare such a vocation properly. His failure then is not ours, but a matter for the mercy of God, our Lord.

Moreover, this is not to say that the full Hesychast model of St Hesychios cannot be adapted to the particular circumstances of the cœnobitical way of life and of each postulant. But it must be recognized what the ideal is, and what adaptations have been made, and why.

In the next chapter, St Hesychios gives a clear presentation of his method.

20 He who is contending within must have in an instant of time these four things: humility, extreme attention, rebuttal and prayer (proseuche).

As will become evident, this basic Hesychian model is the Evagrian system adapted to the use of the Prayer of Jesus, and that repeated incessantly and in the heart. It would be useful for the reader to reread the four ways of sobriety (OS 14–17) before continuing. In terms of the four ways of those chapters, what is being described here is the beginning method constituted of the first and the third ways (OS 14 and 16): the Evagrian immaterial war, or praktike, and the continual humble invocation.

And humility inasmuch as the battle is against proud demons opposed to him, so that he have in the hand of the heart the help of Christ, on account of the ‘The Lord hates the proud.’ [Cf. Prov. 3, 34.]

Attention, then, so that he ever make his own heart to have no thought (logismos) at all, even should it—supposedly—appear to be good.

Rebuttal, then, so that at whatever hour he should keenly recognize him who has come, then directly with anger he should contradict the evil one. He says: ‘And I will reply to those who cast evil reproaches on me: “Will not my soul be subject to the Lord?”’ [Cf. Ps. 118, 42; Ps. 61, 2.]

Prayer (euche), then, so that immediately after the rebuttal, he cry to Christ with an unutterable sigh [cf. Rom. 8, 26].

And then the very one who contends will see the enemy brought to naught or driven away by the worshipful name of Jesus as dust by the wind [cf. Ps. 1, 4; etc.] or as smoke which is dissipating [cf. Ps. 36, 20; Ps. 67, 2], together with his imagination.

When St Hesychios says that he who is contending within must have in an instant of time humility, attention, rebuttal and prayer, what does he mean? First, he means that the monk must have the practice of the Evagrian immaterial war joined to humble invocation. Second, he means, at all times.

First humility. St Hesychios places humility first. Why? Although Evagrius certainly advocates meekness or spiritual charity, his methods of cutting off a demonic thought nowhere emphasize the role of humility. In fact, in TPL 58 Evagrius says:

If you are able, as they say, to drive out one nail [the demonic thought] by another [the thought of another, opposed passion, woven in supposition by the ascetic], then know yourself to be near to the borders of dispassion, for your mind had the strength to destroy with human thoughts the thoughts of demons.

St Hesychios would never say such a thing. True, in the same chapter, Evagrius continues in this way: ‘To repel, however, the thought of vainglory by means of humility or the thought of fornication by means of chastity would be a very deep token of dispassion.’ However, there is a difference in emphasis between Evagrius and St Hesychios. Evagrius is very much the athlete, the trained man able to deflect the demon’s punch with the proper move. St Hesychios is much more the man who insists that rebuttal is not enough without the humble invocation of Jesus. That is not to say that there is nothing that Evagrius says that is useful, but it is necessary to understand and to grasp this point about the necessity of humility in the Hesychian system.

When St Hesychios says that in an instant of time we must have, first, humility, he does not mean an act of humility, a pious thought—even formulaic—which contains an act of self-abasement before the Lord and our fellow men. He means that we must be humble. Always. For the battle is against proud and opposed demons. The only thing the demon cannot stand is humility. Moreover, so that we have in the hand of our hearts the assistance of Christ, because ‘The Lord hates the proud.’ Here we see the central role of humble invocation in Hesychian sobriety: it is the strength of the Lord Jesus which defeats the demon, a strength which we draw to ourselves with our humble invocation.

Attention is the next phase. This is not an act of attention, a thought of attention that might be subsequent to a thought of humility. We must be humble always. We also must have attention always. Why? ‘So that he ever make his own heart to have no thought (logismos) at all, even should it—supposedly—appear to be good.’ This is important. St Hesychios will later explain this, his own contribution to ascetical psychology: the supposedly good thought is the Trojan horse of the subsequent bad thoughts. However, St Hesychios is also perfectly aware of, and adopts, the Evagrian doctrine that the mind must be free of all mental representations, good or bad, in order to see the ‘place of God’[10] or the light of God.[11] Here, however, he clearly intends the first reason: the supposedly good thoughts are the bait the demon sows to catch our mind so as later to sow the bad thoughts.

This emphasis of St Hesychios on the emptying of the mind from all thoughts gives his system its colour, its characteristic orientation. In this he clearly is both in the Evagrian tradition and in the tradition of St John of Sinai. This is the great difference between his system and the system which emphasizes tears and compunction.

Let us look at this attention more closely.

We have pointed out that the Jesus Prayer, or any other formula, even scriptural, can repeat itself in our hearts even though we do not attend. After all, the Prayer continues even while we are asleep. The incessant repetition, even in sleep, is not without effect: the good mental representations are continually revolving through our soul even if we are occupied with something else, even with the business of sleep and dreams.

But here, St Hesychios says, we must attend. We must focus our mind on the words. With measure, since an excessive focus is unbalanced and can damage our mind (nous). But we must continually have in mind that the norm is to be focused, and, St Hesychios will say, intensely focused. And the more we try, the more focused we become, and the easier it gets. This focusing is what enables us to discern the inception of a demonic thought as an impassioned mental representation. This is the key. This marks the transition from the repetition, in ignorance as it were, of the Jesus Prayer to the commencement of the immaterial war with understanding, of which immaterial war the Jesus Prayer is an important part but not the whole battle.

Rebuttal is next. Rebuttal depends on the recognition of the inception of the demonic thought, on the recognition of the inception of the impassioned recollection of an object of sense, and this comes from attention. Implicit in what St Hesychios is saying is the doctrine that the demonic thought is sown by a demon. Hence, one can easily adopt the whole Evagrian doctrine of the eight most general thoughts, as St Hesychios later does explicitly.

How is rebuttal tied to humility, attention and the repetition of the formulaic prayer? As we have pointed out, the prayer continues even if our attention is diverted somewhere else. We can therefore form a thought without disturbing the rhythm of the prayer. This thought we form is the rebuttal. We speak it in the mind without disturbing the rhythm of the what we are doing. It has the form of a ‘one-liner’. That is, it is short. Only a fool would argue with a demon. As Fr Paisios (Eznepides) (1924–1994), the great Starets, is reported to have remarked, a battalion of lawyers would not get anywhere arguing with a demon. That is what the demons want. The demonic thought or impassioned mental representation is the bait, the tar-baby placed in the garden of our intellect, according to the children’s story, which gets the rabbit, our mind, the more and more stuck to it, the more the rabbit, our mind, fights with it. Rebuttal is a punch to the head of the demon.[12]

Now it is not necessary to punch everyone in a crowd that is jostling you. That is tiring. Sometimes it is sufficient to ignore the thought, or to weave an opposing thought in supposition momentarily,[13] without dwelling on either, or else simply to escape to (attend to) the words of the formula.[14] Experience, and Grace, teaches. The use of rebuttal is for more serious thoughts that persist, especially, as we discussed in Volume II, those which bend the ascetic and try to break him.

And rebuttal is for the cases where one has the strength to rebut the thought with a one-liner that is a punch to the head of the demon. We cannot overemphasize this criterion: if it takes more than a sentence to rebut the demon, something is wrong. You have not rebutted (rejected, refused) but have commenced a conversation (argument) with the demon. That is a big mistake. Better to attend to the words of the formula.

Sometimes we do not have the strength to rebut the demon. The Elder Joseph the Hesychast was reduced to the use of the stick on himself when attacked by the demon of fornication. Evagrius remarks in OTT 34 that when the demons change their guard, no pretext having been given by us, then the war becomes much more severe, and we can only endure passively, invoking the aid of the Lord with ejaculatory prayer. In those cases, the ascetic should not expect to have the strength to rebut the demon with a one-liner. That will come later.

We will also see that St John of Sinai remarks that the beginner does not have the strength to rebut, but must rely on ejaculatory prayer, and the intermediate, who has the strength to rebut, sometimes must rely on ejaculatory prayer because the demon has caught him unawares.[15]

Next, prayer, ‘so that immediately he makes the rebuttal, the ascetic cry to Christ with an unutterable sigh’. ‘Out of the depths have I cried to thee, O Lord.’[16] Many of the psalms of David have this unutterable cry from the depths—out of the depths of Sheol, yes, but, here, above all, out of the depths of the soul.

This is where Jesus parts company with meditation. We have explained the noetic aspect of the Jesus Prayer; we have explained how to attach the temper. Here, something else is involved. The whole being cries out: ‘Lord come to my assistance; make haste to help me.’[17] Just as humility is not a mere gimmick to excite the passion of tears wept for the sake of self-love, but a genuine turning to God, so, here, the cry is not a dispassionate, cool, recollected theatrical production. We genuinely cry out to our God. We are not playing. The Jew in his prayer had this, this Davidic cry to the Lord in repentance and intercession for all and for himself. This we have too. On days when the battle is serene, then we do not emphasize so much this Davidic cry; on days, however, when we are beset on all sides, perhaps on account of a providential abandonment because of our negligence,[18] perhaps because of some serious external matter which occupies our attention, then we must cry with all our strength. OS 8 manifests this condition.

Let us clarify something here: what is the relation among the continual invocation by means of a formula, this Davidic cry from the depths, and petition by means of spontaneous ejaculatory prayer? First of all, let us emphasize that just as we can attach the temper functioning according to nature to the continual repetition of the formula, so we can attach this Davidic cry from the depths to the continual repetition of the formula. Somewhere in the introduction to St Silouan the Athonite’s (1866–1938) writings, Fr Sophrony (Sakharov) (1896–1993) calls this praying with the heart.[19] We by no means disagree, but it should be understood that while this Davidic cry is necessary and salutary, it is not precisely the same thing as standing with the mind or attention in the gate of the heart and observing the formation of the impassioned mental representation. For with the mind outside the heart—say, in the head—we can still pray with this Davidic cry. However, the Hesychian method properly has the mind consciously in the heart, there to observe, in the gate of the heart, the formation of the impassioned mental representation and there to rebut it. Now all of this can go on with the automatic, continual repetition of the formula: we are discussing how the formula is prayed, our participation in the repetition of the formula: we attach the attention (the noetic aspect); we attach the temper; we attach the heart; we will later see how to attach the desiring part of the soul functioning according to nature. And we do these things from day to day in varying proportions. It depends on the circumstances, on the war that is being fought and on our spiritual condition. So far we have said nothing about ejaculatory prayer.

Ejaculatory prayer is different from the repetition of a formula. It is a matter of praying spontaneously with short phrases as they burst forth in our mind and mouth. These phrases can be spoken aloud or said silently in the intellect. To a certain extent, when we are praying with ejaculatory prayer—perhaps we are beginners who do not have a command of the Jesus Prayer; perhaps we are tired; perhaps the demon has caught us unprepared—we can also attach attention, temper, the heart, the desiring part of the soul functioning according to nature.

We take the view in this study that when St Hesychios refers to the ‘prayer (euche) of Jesus’, he is referring primarily to the repetition of a formula such as the Jesus Prayer. We think that only in the beginner would he expect the repetition of a formula to be replaced by ejaculatory prayer, much as St John of Sinai seems to suggest in the passages that we quote later.[20] Since St Hesychios’ method is not merely the repetition of a formula, but Evagrian praktike, the immaterial war, joined to the repetition of a formula, it is plausible that St Hesychios might foresee the use of ejaculatory prayer in the beginner. For his method, beginning as it does with attention and the rebuttal of the impassioned mental representation or thought, can certainly be joined to ejaculatory prayer. However, the later chapters of OS clearly foresee the continual repetition of the prayer of the name of Jesus joined with the breathing,[21] something that is impossible to achieve with ejaculatory prayer: we understand this to be the continual automatic repetition of a formula in harmony with the natural breathing. In the context of this discussion, it is well to recall that we know that St Hesychios had read GC, which explicitly discusses the repetition of the Jesus Prayer until such a time that it is repeated even in sleep.

St Hesychios says, ‘by the name of Jesus’; we have referred to the use of the ‘Our Father’ and to the use even of passages from Scripture. Is this valid? Yes. The ‘Our Father’ was taught by the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. The Bible is the word of God. Of course, one chooses the passage from Scripture with Orthodox Christian discernment.

The final paragraph—‘And then the very one who contends will see the enemy brought to naught…’—is true; one does indeed then see the enemy scattered by the name of Jesus as dust by the wind or as smoke which is dissipating. However, it should be understood that although ‘the enemy will be brought to naught’, it is not necessarily with the first invocation. In times of intense struggle, we usually rely on the repetition of the formula, to which we have attached the temper functioning according to nature and also the heart. If in that condition we find that the demon is attempting to bend and break us, we issue a ferocious rebuttal. It would not make sense to issue more than one such rebuttal. If the one rebuttal does not work, we must attend to the invocation in patient endurance, attaching more intensity with the temper and heart, more humility.

St Hesychios does not proceed rationalistically; there is much repetition, much looking at the same thing from a different perspective and in greater depth in what he writes. When he is finished, however, you understand mental prayer and prayer prayed in the heart.

Let us continue to look at prayer with St Hesychios:

21 He who does not have prayer (euche) pure of thoughts (logismoi) does not have a weapon in war—prayer (euche), I say, everlastingly activated in the innermost sanctuaries of the soul, so that by the invocation of Christ, the enemy who secretly is giving battle is whipped and burned.

The first thing is prayer pure of thoughts. We have seen that the key to being free of thoughts is attention in the heart. Here, it is not a matter of pure prayer in the Evagrian sense of Theology: we are still in the immaterial war. Here it is a matter of being able to discern the commencement, the inception, of a demonically sown thought. We just discussed this.

Now what prayer does St Hesychios have in mind? It is prayer ‘everlastingly activated in the innermost sanctuaries of the soul’. This is the heart. And the prayer is a formula of invocation (‘invocation of Christ’, St Hesychios writes) everlastingly—unceasingly, twenty-four hours a day, night and day, asleep and awake, in Church and in the yard, at home, at work: everlastingly!—activated, or repeated, in the heart. It is impossible to meet this criterion of prayer ‘everlastingly activated in the innermost sanctuaries of the soul’ with ejaculatory prayer.

This is the Jesus Prayer. As we have pointed out, dogmatically the prayer must be Christian—on account of the fact that the mental representations it introduces into the mind must be Christian and Orthodox and not phoney: these mental representations continually introduced into the mind have a powerful effect on the man, and an Orthodox Christian who would presume to introduce non-Orthodox mental representations into his mind twenty-four hours a day would be courting catastrophe.

But as St Hesychios says, and has just said, it is the invocation which saves, by calling down God’s mercy upon the sinner. Hence, the prayer must also be dogmatically sound from a soteriological point of view. For if I call down a false god, who will hear? Jesus? Or the false god?

What happens then, when we call down the mercy of Christ by invocation? The enemy who is secretly giving battle is ‘whipped and burned’. On the one hand the humility is unbearable to the demon. Then the mental representations introduced by the words of the formula of the prayer disturb the demon. And, finally, the invocation of Jesus Christ the Lord of lords and the God of gods whips and burns the demon, who flees.

This whipping and burning is accomplished both by the mental representation conveyed by the repetition of the name of Jesus Christ[22] and by the grace which Jesus Christ our merciful Master sends to whip and burn the demon, who then flees.

Let us see how St Hesychios puts it:

22 For you are obliged to see with a sharp and intense glance of the mind (nous) so as to perceive those who enter; knowing, then, immediately bruising by means of rebuttal the head of the snake; and at the same time as this, with a sigh cry to Jesus; and then you will receive experience of invisible divine succour, and at that time you will clearly see uprightness of heart.

The only passage that remains to be explained is this: ‘…and at that time you will clearly see uprightness of heart’.

‘Uprightness of heart’ has two senses: First, the subjective experience in the heart of an honourableness, of a moral uprightness that is our condition of the moment. Recall that Evagrius used the word ‘condition’ to express our habitual spiritual attainment as experienced by us. This, then, is the subjective experience. It comes from the fact that we have refused the temptation, from the fact that the grace of Jesus Christ has come and made us consciously aware of our upright heart.

Second, over the long run, and this is what St Hesychios is really driving at, you will change: you will acquire virtue. Recall that St Hesychios says in OS 1, above, that sobriety ‘…thoroughly teaches us to set the three parts of the soul in motion justly and to guard the senses securely; and daily it increases the four cardinal virtues in him who shares in it.’ This is what he really is referring to here. Recall also that the acquisition of dispassion, the restoration of the image of God as regards the passionate part of the soul, is equivalent to the acquisition of virtue. There is no mystical experience in Orthodoxy cut off from a moral uprightness. For the mystical experience conveys the fullness of the image of God, but only when the labourer in the vineyard has himself worked to cultivate the vine of virtue. The mystical experience perfects the virtues through the operations of the Holy Spirit,[23] but the mystic must first have actively acquired the virtues: this is the meaning of the practical life or sobriety: it is a method of acquiring the virtues which God himself will later perfect. As we have pointed out, one necessarily, as a Christian, begins with the acquisition of the virtues in his actions: this is the keeping of the commandments in one’s actions. However, the ascetic then proceeds to the acquisition of the virtues in thought through the keeping of the commandments in thought: this is the immaterial war.

Hence, we now see that the immaterial war—the rebuttal followed by invocation, and all these things done with attention and humility—is not merely a meditation or method of tranquillizing a hypertensive man, although it has operations on such a psychosomatic level, but is primarily and firstly and chiefly a spiritual method which, among other goals, has the goal of an increase in virtue, and virtue not as success in one’s work, but as moral rectitude before the God of the Old and New Testaments.

St Hesychios now changes the subject.

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[1] Philokalia G.

[2] The transformation from dispassion to the second natural contemplation.

[3] The transformation from second natural contemplation to first natural contemplation; see the commentary on OTT 40 in Volume II for why Evagrius passes directly from dispassion to first natural contemplation here.

[4] Purified the soul of the passions by means of praktike, the first transformation.

[5] Letters E and G.

[6] Luke 11, 24–6.

[7] ‘Orthodox Service of Tonsure to the Great and Angelic Schema’, Catechism: Euchologion p. 209. A complete English translation of the service can be found in Robinson.

[8] Ladder G Step 1, 42; = Ladder E Step 1, 23.

[9] See particularly Step 4, 113 of Ladder G (= Step 4, 112 of Ladder E), but in general all of Steps 1–4 of the Ladder.

[10] Evagrius’ formulation in OTT 39 and 40.

[11] St Hesychios.

[12] Cf. Paisios Life p. 487, where Fr Paisios is quoted as follows: ‘In the case of attacks of thoughts (prosboles logismon), the best approach is contempt: the person shouldn’t pay attention to it. Conversation with a thought (logismos) is dangerous because even if a hundred lawyers gathered together they couldn’t get anywhere with a little bitty demon.’

[13] TPL 58.

[14] OTT 24.

[15] See the commentary before OS 87.

[16] Cf. Ps. 129, 1.

[17] Ps. 69, 2, but see the whole psalm.

[18] OS 7.

[19] Silouan.

[20] In the commentary before OS 87.

[21] See, for example, OS 170.

[22] See OTT 41.

[23] See St Diadochos in Chapter V of Volume I.


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