St. Diadochos on Spiritual Knowledge

SAINT DIADOCHOS

71. Spiritual knowledge teaches us that, at the outset, the soul in pursuit of theology is troubled by many passions, above all by anger and hatred. This happens to it not so much because the demons are arousing these passions, as because it is making progress. So long as the soul is worldly-minded, it remains unmoved and untroubled however much it sees people trampling justice under foot. Preoccupied with its own desires, it pays no attention to the justice of God. When, however, because of its disdain for this world and its love for God, it begins to rise above its passions, it cannot bear, even in its dreams, to see justice set at naught. It becomes infuriated with evil-doers and remains angry until it sees the violators of justice forced to make amends. This, then, is why it hates the unjust and loves the just. The eye of the soul cannot be led astray when its veil, by which I mean the body, is refined to near transparency through self-control. Nevertheless, it is much better to lament the insensitivity of the unjust than to hate them; for even should they deserve our hatred, it is senseless for a soul which loves God to be disturbed by hatred, since when hatred is present in the soul spiritual knowledge is paralyzed.

72. The theologian whose soul is gladdened and kindled by the oracles of God comes, when the time is ripe, to the realm of dispassion; for it is written: ‘The oracles of the Lord are pure, as silver when tried in fire, and purged of earth’ (Ps. 12:6. LXX). The Gnostic, for his part, rooted in his direct experience of spiritual knowledge, is established above the passions. The theologian, if he humbles himself, may also savor the experience of spiritual knowledge, while the Gnostic, if he acquires faultless discrimination, may by degrees attain the virtue of theological contemplation. These two gifts, theology and gnosis, never occur in all their fullness in the same person; but theologian and Gnostic each marvel at what the other enjoys to a greater degree, so that humility and desire for holiness increase in both of them. That is why the Apostle says: ‘For to one is given by the Spirit the principle of wisdom; to another the principle of spiritual knowledge by the same Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:8).

73. When a person is in a state of natural well-being, he sings the psalms with a full voice and prefers to pray out loud. But when he is energized by the Holy Spirit, with gladness and completely at peace he sings and prays in the heart alone. The first condition is accompanied by a delusory joy, the second by spiritual tears and, thereafter, by a delight that loves stillness. For the remembrance of God, keeping its fervor because the voice is restrained, enables the heart to have thoughts that bring tears and are peaceful. In this way, with tears we sow seeds of prayer in the earth of the heart, hoping to reap the harvest in joy (cf. Ps. 126:5). But when we are weighed down by deep despondency, we should for a while sing psalms out loud, raising our voice with joyful expectation until the thick mist is dissolved by the warmth of song.

74. When the soul has reached self-understanding, it produces from within a certain feeling of warmth for God. When this warmth is not disturbed by worldly cares, it gives birth to a desire for peace which, so far as its strength allows, searches out the God of peace. But it is quickly robbed of this peace, either because our attention is distracted by the senses or because nature, on account of its basic insufficiency, soon exhausts itself. This was why the wise men of Greece could not possess as they should what they hoped to acquire through their self-control, for the eternal wisdom which is the fullness of truth was not at work within their intellect. On the other hand, the feeling of warmth which the Holy Spirit engenders in the heart is completely peaceful and enduring. It awakes in all parts of the soul a longing for God; its heat does not need to be fanned by anything outside the heart, but through the heart it makes the whole man rejoice with a boundless love. Thus, while recognizing the first kind of warmth, we should strive to attain the second; for although natural love is evidence that our nature is in a healthy state through self control, nevertheless such love lacks the power, which spiritual love possesses, to bring the intellect to the state of dispassion.

75. When the north wind blows over creation, the air around us remains pure because of this wind’s subtle and clarifying nature; but when the south wind blows, the air becomes hazy because it is this wind’s nature to produce mist and,, by virtue of its affinity with clouds, to bring them from its own regions to cover the earth. Likewise, when the soul is energized by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is freed completely from the demonic mist; but when the wind of error blows fiercely upon it, it is completely filled with the clouds of sin. With all our strength, therefore, we should, try always to face towards the life-creating and purifying wind of the Holy Spirit – the wind which the prophet Ezekiel, in the light of spiritual knowledge, saw coming from the north (cf. Ezek. 1:4). Then the contemplative faculty of the soul will always remain clear, so that we devote ourselves unerringly to the contemplation of the divine, beholding the world of light in an air filled with light. For this is the light of true knowledge.

76. Some have imagined that both grace and sin – that is, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error – are hidden at the same time in the intellect of the baptized. As a result, they say, one of these two spirits urges the intellect to good, the other to evil. But from Holy Scripture and through the intellect’s own insight I have come to understand things differently. Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect’s ways of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace; on the contrary, it is because he uses the body’s humors to befog the intellect with the delight of mindless pleasures. God allows him to do this, so that a man, after passing through a trial of storm and fire, may come in the end to the full enjoyment of divine blessings. For it is written: ‘We went through fire and water, and Thou hast brought us out into a place where the soul is refreshed’ (Ps. 66.12. LXX).

77. As we have said, from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect, concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself. When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to his soul.-Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Matt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect. During this process, however, the Lord allows the soul to be pestered increasingly by demons. This is to teach it to discriminate correctly between good and evil, and to make it more humble through the deep shame it feels during its purification because of the way in which it is defiled by demonic thoughts.

On Spiritual  Knowledge and Discrimination

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