Sunday, August 3, 2008

St. Diadochos of Photiki - Gnostic Chapters

Orthodox Monk has begun posting a translation of the Gnostic Chapters by St. Diadochos of Photiki. Those who have read this sort of literature will already know that the terms "gnostic" and "gnosis" have a much wider application than denoting a tenet of Gnosticism. The study of gnosis is an epistemological study which may entail ideas and conclusions either heterodox or orthodox. In the case of St. Diadochos, we have an orthodox form.

From the introductory post:
We hope to publish over the next short while the complete text of our translation of the Gnostic Chapters of St Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Epirus. Not much is known about this 5th Century prelate. His see was located somewhat north of present-day Preveza in Greece. His work is included in the first volume of the Philokalia and was one of the works that St Symeon the New Theologian was given to read when he was a novice. It is the first recorded work to speak explicitly of the Jesus Prayer.
Chapters 1-25 (of 100) are here. A sample:
When the temper is set in motion against the passions, it must be known that it is the hour of silence. When one sees that confusion coming to serenity either through the prayer or through almsgiving let him set the wing of the mind in motion in the love of the sayings of God, being secured with the bond of humility. For if one does not humiliate oneself greatly, he is not able to speak concerning the grandeur of God.
Chapters 26-35 (of 100) are here. A sample:
One thing is the love which is natural to the soul and another thing is the love which occurs to it from the Holy Spirit. For the first is set into motion moderately, when we wish, from our own will, and for that reason it is easily plundered by the demons when we do not restrain our own intention with violence[11]. The second, however, so much enkindles the soul towards the love of God that then in an unutterable way all the parts of soul fasten on to the goodness of the divine longing in a certain infinite simplicity of disposition. For having then become as it were pregnant by the spiritual activity,[12] the mind spouts a certain fountain of love and joy.
Chapters 36-50 (of 100) are here. A sample:
As an example of this, let there be for us the servant who is hailed by night by his master from in front of the yard of the house after a long absence abroad. To whom the servant absolutely refuses the opening of the doors. He has been frightened lest, plundering him, the similarity of voice prepare him to become betrayer of the things that were entrusted by the master. With whom his lord is not angry once it has become day but finds him worthy of many praises, for he thought that even the voice of the master was a deception, not wanting to lose any of his goods.
Chapters 51-60 (of 100) are here. A sample:
When we are greatly disgusted with the bodily anomalies that occur to us,[6] it must be known that our soul is still enslaved to the desires of the body. For just that reason the soul, longing for material well-being, does not wish to depart from the good things of life but also considers it a great lack of leisure not to be able, on account of the illnesses, to make use of the fine things of life. But if with thanksgiving the soul accepts the troubles that arise from the illnesses, it is known not to be far from the boundaries of dispassion, whence it even then accepts death with joy, as being, rather, the occasion of true life.
Chapters 61-70 (of 100) are here. A sample:
Just as when they are open the doors of the baths quickly impel the inner warmth towards the outside, thus also the soul, when it wishes to speak much, even if it should say all things well, disperses its own remembrance through the gate of the voice. Whence the soul is thenceforth deprived of seasonable thoughts[52] and speaks the clashing of its thoughts[53] more or less in a mob[54] to those who happen to be there, because henceforward it does not have the Holy Spirit preserving it so that it have an intellect without fantasy. For the Good, being foreign to agitation and every fantasy, ever flees garrulousness. Therefore silence is good in its proper time, being nothing other than the mother of the wisest thoughts[55].
Chapters 71-80 (of 100) are here. A sample:
Grace, as I said, is hidden in the depth of the mind from the very instant in which we are baptized, hiding, however, the very perception of its presence. However, whenever one should begin to desire God ardently from his whole intention, then by means of the sense of the mind, Grace, using a certain unspeakable word, begins to speak to the soul some certain part of its goods.[30] Whence, thenceforward he who wholly wishes to hold on to this discovery securely comes to a desire of divesting himself of all present goods with great joy, so that, really, he acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life. For when one divests himself of all the wealth of this worldly life, then he finds the place[31] where the grace of God is hidden.
Chapters 81-85 (of 100) are here. A sample:
The Lord says in the Gospel that it is not possible to expel the strong one from his house unless someone who is stronger, having bound and despoiled him, expels him. How is it therefore possible that he who has been expelled with so much shame should enter in again and sojourn with the true householder who is reposing however he wishes in his own house? For not even a king who at some time has struggled greatly against the tyrant who has rebelled against him will countenance having this person in the palace. Rather, he will slaughter him immediately or, having bound him, hand him over to his own troops for a long punishment and most miserable death.
Chapters 86-90 (of 100) are here. A sample:
The pedagogic surrender brings much sorrow and humbleness and moderate despair to the soul, so that the part of it which is ambitious and liable to fall come appropriately into humility. It immediately brings to the heart the fear of God and tears of confession and great desire for most beautiful silence. On the other hand, the surrender which is according to the aversion of God allows the soul to be filled with despair together with disbelief and wrath and delusion[5]. We must, knowing the experience of both types of surrender, approach God according to the manner of each.

Chapters 91-95 (of 100) are here. A sample:
To those who are beginning to desire piety ardently the way of virtue seems extremely rough and very gloomy not because it is that sort of thing but because directly from the womb human nature consorts with the range of the pleasures. To those who are able to come to middle of it, the way is shown to be wholly approachable and comfortable, for having been subordinated through the activity[18] of the good, the bad is destroyed by the good habit along with the memory of the irrational passions.[19] Whence, thenceforth the soul gladly passes through the all the paths of the virtues. For this reason, the Lord, introducing us to the road of salvations, says: ‘How narrow and strait is the road leading to the Kingdom and few are they that enter in by it.’ To those who with much intention wish to come forth to the keeping of his holy commandments, he says: ‘For my yoke is good and my load is light.’ Therefore, in the beginning of the struggle it is necessary to work the holy commandments of God with a certain violent act of the will, so that seeing our purpose and effort the good Lord send us a certain act of the will very much ready to serve his glorious wishes.[20] For then: ‘The will[21] is prepared by the Lord;’ so that we unceasingly work the good in a certain great joy. For then, really, we will perceive that: ‘God is he who acts in us both to want and to act beyond expectation.’
Chapters 96-100 (of 100) are here. A sample:
Those who are friends of the pleasures of this world come to the actual missteps from the thoughts[1]. For borne by an undiscerning judgement they desire to bring almost all their impassioned conceptions[2] to lawless words and unholy works. Those however who are endeavouring to accomplish the ascetic way of life come from the actual missteps to the evil thoughts and to certain evil and damaging words. For if the demons see such persons gladly tolerating abuse [of others] or speaking certain idle or unseasonable things or laughing as it should not be or angered immoderately or desiring to see empty and vain glory, then they arm themselves in a group against them. Moreover, taking ambition as an excuse for their own evil they jump as it were through a certain dark window and plunder the soul. Therefore it is necessary that those who wish to dwell together with the multitude of virtues not seek glory, nor meet with many people, nor make use of continual departures [from the monastery] or abuse certain persons (even if those who are abused are worthy of the abuse), nor speak much even if they are able to say all things well. For dispersing the mind without measure, garrulity not only makes the mind idle in relation to its spiritual labour but also delivers it to the demon of accidie[3], which weakening it without measure delivers it thenceforth to the demons of sorrow and to the demons of anger. The mind must therefore ever be occupied with the keeping of the holy commandments and with the deep remembrance of the Lord of Glory. For he says: ‘He who keeps the commandment will not know an evil word;’ that is, will not deviate into bad thoughts or words.

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