Special Report

by admin on March 27, 2011

This website is primarily dedicated to publishing the writings of Alphonsus Rodriguez of the Society of Jesus (circa 1526 AD to 1616 AD).  While these ancient writings are excellent guides to Spiritual Perfection there are also so many other ancient writings by Saints and Spiritual Masters.  We have developed the mailing list to deliver these other writings.  The following article is an example of these types of writings that we include in our monthly mailing list.  So, if you are interested, please sign up for these other Inspirational Readings in the Box to the right.

The Four Virtues of the Soul

by St Peter of Damaskos (circa about 1096 AD)

There are four forms of wisdom: first, moral judgment, or the knowledge of what should and should not be done, combined with watchfulness of the intellect; second, self-restraint, whereby our moral purpose is safeguarded and kept free from all acts, thoughts and words that do not accord with God; third, courage, or strength and endurance in sufferings, trials and temptations encountered on the spiritual path; and fourth, justice, which consists in maintaining proper balance between the first three. These four general virtues arise from the three powers of the soul in the following manner: from the intelligence, or intellect, come moral judgment and justice, or discrimination; from the desiring power comes self-restraint; and from the incensive power comes courage.

Each virtue lies between two unnatural passions. Moral judgment lies between craftiness and thoughtlessness; self-restraint, between obduracy and licentiousness; courage, between overbearingness and cowardice; justice between over-frugality and greed. The four virtues constitute an image of the heavenly man, while the eight unnatural passions constitute an image of the earthly man (cf. 1 Cor. 15 : 49).

God possesses a perfect knowledge of all these things, just as He knows the past, the present and the future; and they are known to some extent by him who through grace has learned from God about His works, and who through this grace has been enabled to realize in himself that which is according to God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1 : 26). But if someone claims that, simply by hearing about these things, he knows them as he should, he is a liar. Man’s intellect can never rise to heaven without God as a guide; and it cannot speak of what it has not seen, but must first ascend and see it. On the level of hearsay, you should speak only of things that you have learnt from the Scriptures, and then with circumspection, confessing your faith in the Father of the Logos, as St Basil the Great puts it, and not imagining that through hearsay you possess spiritual knowledge; for that is to be worse than ignorant. As St Maximos has said, ‘To think that one knows prevents one from advancing in knowledge.“1 St John Chrysostom points out that there is an ignorance which is praiseworthy: it consists in knowing consciously that one knows nothing. In addition, there is a form of ignorance that is worse than any other: not to know that one does not know. Similarly, there is a knowledge that is falsely so called, which occurs when, as St Paul says, one thinks that one knows but does not know (cf. 1 Cor. 8:2).

1 On Love III, 81 (The Philokalia, vol. ii, p. 96)

Active Spiritual Knowledge

again by St Peter of Damaskos (circa about 1096 AD)

There is such a thing as true spiritual knowledge, and there is total ignorance; but best of all is active spiritual knowedge. For of what use is it to possess all knowledge, or, rather, to receive it from God by grace, as did Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs. 3 : 12)-and there will never be another man like him-and yet go into agelong punishment? What good is such knowledge to you unless, as a result of your actions and firm faith, your conscience assures you that you are delivered from future punishment, and that you have no reason to condemn yourself for neglecting anything you should and could have done? As St John the Theologian says: ‘If our heart does not condemn us, then we can approach God with confidence’ (1 John 3 : 21). But it may be, St Neilos says, that our conscience itself deceives us, overcome by the darkening of the passions, as St John Klimakos observes.1 For evil can by itself darken the intellect, as St Basil the Great puts it, and presumption can make it blind, not allowing it to become what it supposes itself to be. What, then, shall we say of those who are enslaved to the passions, and yet think they have a clear conscience? Even the Apostle Paul, in whom Christ dwelt in word and act, said: ‘Though I have nothing on my conscience’ – no sin, that is to say – ‘yet I am not thereby acquitted’ (1 Cor. 4 : 4).

Because of our great insensitivity most of us think that we are something while in fact we are nothing (cf. Gal. 6 : 3): as St Paul says, ‘When they are talking about peace….calamity falls on them’ (1 Thess. 5 : 3). For they did not in fact possess peace but, as St John Chrysostom explains, only talked about it, thinking in their great insensitivity that they did possess it. Such people, as James the brother of the Lord points out, have forgotten about their sins (cf. Jas. 1 : 24), and most of them in their pride deceive themselves, as St John Klimakos says, into thinking that they are dispassionate.2

Indeed, I myself am terrified of those three giants of the devil about whom St Mark the Ascetic has written: laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance.3 For I am always dominated by them, and I am afraid that in my unawareness of my own limitations I will stray from the straight path, as St Isaac puts it. It is for this reason that 1 have compiled this present collection. The person who hates being rebuked is obviously subject to the passion of pride, St John Klimakos says; but the person who puts behind him the fault for which he was rebuked is loosed from his bonds.4 As Solomon says, ‘When a fool enquires about wisdom, he is regarded as wise’ (cf. Prov. 17 : 28. LXX).

I have given the names of books and saints at the beginning, so as not to overburden my work by specifying to whom each saying belongs. Indeed, the holy fathers often copied out the words of the divine Scriptures just as they are, as St Gregory the Theologian did with those of Solomon; and Symeon Metaphrastis the Logothete said with reference to St John Chrysostom mat it would be wrong not to use the saint’s words and to substitute his own. And yet he could have done so; for all the fathers were inspired by the same Holy Spirit. Sometimes they do cite their authors, adorning their works with their names, and in their humility preferring the words of the Scriptures to their own; at other times, because of the great number of citations, they quote anonymously, so as not to overload their texts.

1 Ladder, Step 5 (780B; E.T., p. 108)    2 Ladder, Step 23 (969C; E.T., p. 182)    3 Letter to Nicolas the Solitary (The Philokalia, vol. i, pp. 158-61)    4 Ladder, Step 23 (968A; E.T., p. 180)

Other Titles Include

The Bodily Virtues As Tools For The Acquisition Of The Virtues Of The Soul

The Guarding Of The Intellect

Obedience and Stillness

That There Are No Contradictions In Holy Scripture

That We Should Never Despair Even If We Sin Many Times

How To Acquire True Faith

The Great Benefit Of True Repentence

How It Is Impossible To Be Saved Without Humilty

The Virtue Of  Humility

 

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