Our spiritual life is one where we continually struggle against our "self-opinon and proud mindedness." It is a struggle aimed at breaking our will so we can dedicate ourselves to God and live in a manner where we only do His will. We have to shift from a worldly orientation to one that is oriented towards God's kingdom. It is a shift from a world filled with temptation and evil to one that is oriented only to doing good. The task is to tame the intellect and free it so it can be directed by divine grace. It is an inner struggle involving our outer actions. It's a battle of grand proportions called spiritual warfare.
Saint Theophan tells us that the attacks we must deal with are soul-related and bodily powers.
1. In the body: the source of passions is pleasing the flesh...There is sexual lust, gluttony, love of pleasure, sloth, comfort, adulterous feelings, loquacity, absent -mindedness, restlessness, will fulness in everything, unseemly laughter, idle talk, sleepiness, daydreaming, craving the pleasant and all manner of pleasing the flesh in lust.
2. In soul: a) In the mental part––opinion, exclusive belief in one's own intellect, criticism, attacking the mind of God, doubts, puffing up and arrogance, curiosity, mental plundering, straying thoughts.
b) In the sensual part––passions that shatter peace and tranquility of heart, or various kinds of pleasantness and unpleasantness: wrath, envy, hatred, anger revenge, judgment, contempt, vain glory, ambition, pride, boredom, sadness, sorrow, depression, joy, cheerfulness, fears, hopes, expectation.
How do we get at the root of these? This is our challenge. Saint Theophan says that the source of all these passions is self love. At their root, he says, are pleasure, covetousness and pride. The way to conquer them is to "cut off pleasure by self-directed wrath, covetousness with unacquisitiveness, and pride with humility."
The main challenge is to maintain an awareness of the attacks so we can counteract them. The main enemy is our thoughts. Our actions are always preceded by a thought. This is the battle ground. The pattern of our actions is "the onrush of thoughts, contemplation, delight in it, desire, passion, attraction, resolve, and then the deed." Therefore Saint Theophan says, "all the ascetic's attention should be directed inside himself––at thoughts, desires, passions and attractions. It should be most of all, incidentally, be directed at thoughts, for the heart and the will are not so mercurial as thoughts; and passions and desires rarely attack themselves––they are most often born of thoughts. From this we can make a rule: cut off thoughts and you will cut off everything."
The battle ground has been identified and next we will deal with Saint Theophan's rules for this spiritual warfare.
ref: Path To Salvation, pp 280 - 289
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