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Category: free will

The End II

by Andrea Elizabeth

Here’s the part about the sun standing still,

To the people who fought against the emerging truth of physical philosophy it seemed that, if they were to recognize that truth, faith in God, in the creation of the firmament, in the miracle of Joshua, son of Nun, would be destroyed. To the defenders of the laws of Copernicus and Newton – Voltaire, for instance – it seemed that the laws of astronomy destroyed religion, and he used the law of gravity as a weapon against religion.

In the same way now it seems that we need only recognize the law of necessity and the notions of the soul, of good and evil, and all state and church institutions based on those notions will be destroyed.

In the same way now as with Voltaire in his time, the uninvited defenders of the law of necessity use that law as a weapon against religion; whereas – exactly like Copernicus’s law in astronomy – the law of necessity in history not only does not destroy, but even consolidates the ground on which state and church institutions are built. (p. 1214)

I guess he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. The Church is necessary – so how could it exist by our free will? I believe the Orthodox would say it exists by disproportionate synergy between God and man. Throughout history there have consistently been people who willed that the Church exist. The fact that there have been no gaps would point to predestination, but this does not have to mean that man’s will was necessarily overcome to make it so. Was so willing by man a natural consequence of his past? When a person looks back at why they are a Christian, they can point to Sunday School teachers, parents, and other witnesses of the faith, and feelings about either needing (as a result of deprivation) help, love, or a better explanation than science provides for the universe. In a Christian society, they will get a Christian answer, in other societies they will get a Buddhist or other answer. There are probably atheists in all societies who do not believe in a higher power or cause, I don’t know about every case. But Tolstoy’s saying that if you had enough perspective, you would see why even the atheist was lead in that direction. But this takes away the individual, free soul of a person. Tolstoy is saying to ignore this disruption in our perception of how things are. I think we can see tendencies that fit what he’s saying, but that is because freedom is voluntary, and oftentimes a heavy responsibility that Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor exposes, along with people’s aversion to it.

Nevertheless we honor the people who have influenced us and lead us along the true path, but in so honoring we have to recognize their freedom in leading us and encouraging us to choose thusly.

The End

by Andrea Elizabeth

except for the Author’s Note.

In the last part of the Epilogue, Tolstoy outlaws freedom! Where he puts God in the course of human events is uncertain. He pretty much says that science has killed God, so bringing God into the equation is not acceptable. I don’t think he believes that, but he is playing by their rules regardless. Whether the inevitable course of events is destined by God or pure science, perhaps decreed by God, is immaterial to his explanation.

His contrasts of freedom and/or necessity, consciousness and reason, and causes and/or laws is quite fascinating. The part that seems to contradict his conclusions is the lack of an “or” between consciousness (where we believe ourselves free) and reason (which defines things according to existing laws). No, he is consistent in that at the end he says we have to believe what we do not feel, the same as we have to believe the new revelation that the earth is moving even though we don’t feel it.

On one hand I think his conclusions, research and observations are very valuable. There are certain laws that govern human behavior. I think he pretty much nailed the inevitableness of why people go to war and how women are dependent on men. But these are the laws of the fallen universe. And these are the laws by which I think we need to understand dysfunctional behavior so that we don’t judge others. However, there is a way out. Female monasticism demonstrates freedom from dependence on men, pacifism (apparently Gandhi was very influenced by Tolstoy) demonstrates freedom from dependence on the urge to dominate, and the higher levels of monasticism demonstrate freedom from anything except the Lord’s Supper. All three are healings of the original Curses. While reading, I was going to argue for when the sun stood still for Joshua, but then he mentions it without me understanding where he thinks that fits in. I’ll reread that part in a bit and make an edit if I understand better.

Christ shows us that God, the author of laws, is not subject to them. This is the basis for miracles, which are really evidence of how we are intended to live. We are meant to be free from laws. But initially we have to choose negatively. Fasting teaches us freedom from the law of necessity. Choosing to die as true, not prideful, martyrs also frees us from this law.

Like I say I don’t understand why he mentions the one miracle, or how we are made in God’s image, when he seems to otherwise stick with his thesis.

[2nd addendum of the day: This is the part where I thought he talked about man being made in God’s image, but I was wrong. “Man is the creation of an almighty, all-good, and all-knowing God. What then is sin, the concept of which follows from the consciousness of man’s freedom? That is a question for theology.” (p. 1202) I guess he takes the Calvinist’s answer to that.]

Tolstoy on freedom and happiness

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now that I’ve reached the Epilogue, I’d like to share a few of the previous passages that are sticking with me.

In captivity, in the shed, Pierre had learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, his life, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of the natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth – he had learned that there is nothing frightening in the world. He had learned that, as there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree. He had learned that there is a limit to suffering and a limit to freedom, and that those limits are very close; that the man who suffers because one leaf is askew in his bed of roses, suffers as much as he now suffered falling asleep on the bare, damp ground, one side getting cold as the other warmed up; that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered as much as now, when he walked barefoot (his shoes had long since worn out) and his feet were covered with sores. He learned that when, by his own will, as it had seemed to him, he had married his wife, he had been no more free than now, when he was locked in a stable for the night [ouch]. Of all that he, too, later called suffering, but which at the time he hardly felt, the main thing was his bare feet, covered with sores and scabs. (Horsemeat was tasty and nutritious, the saltpeter bouquet of the gunpowder they used instead of salt was even agreeable, there were no great cold spells, and walking in the daytime always made him hot, while at night there were campfires; the lice that ate him warmed his body pleasantly.) One thing was painful at first – his feet.

On the second day of the march, when Pierre examined his sores by the campfire, he thought it would be impossible to step on them; but when everybody got up, he went along limping, and then, having warmed up, walked without pain, though by evening his feet were still more frightful to look at. But he did not look at them and thought of other things.

Only now did Pierre understand the full force of human vitality and the saving power of the shifting of attention that has been put in man, similar to the safety valve in steam engines, which releases the extra steam as soon as the pressure exceeds a certain norm. (p. 1060)

The tide of human events

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now that Napoleon is leaving Moscow I’d like to point out something about the course of the war. Tolstoy talks about the mutual will of the troops to fight for each side under their commanders, and how the specifics do not go as planned, except in the grand scheme, but also points to determined outcomes. My developing view of free will and leadership sees this a little differently. Yes the leader reflects the will of the people, in this case the French for domination, and the west in their respect for this domination. Kutuzov reflects Russia’s disrespect for this domination. Napoleon had previously obtained the upper hand because of his very strong will to capture Moscow, which symbolized for him Russia. It was the last jewel he wanted in his crown, and thus the definition of his his troops’ desire for victory. I think he staggered both in the preceding Battle of Bordino and in retaining Moscow and the rest of Russia because of 1, the very strong will of the Russians, and 2, his own waning will in that he was so close to getting his last goal. He knew he could still push to Moscow even after Borodino, and he did. He accomplished what he desired, but then as happens with most of us, once we get what we want and the conquest is over, we don’t know what to do with it and we grow dissatisfied and lose interest. This is why he lost after that. Also because Russia loved itself. The rest of Europe must not have loved themselves for them to have surrendered to Napoleon.

I don’t think France loved itself anymore afterward and thus they surrendered to the Germans in the next century. I learned as a schoolbus driver that you have to be as tough as the toughest kid in the bus to keep control of your territory. And it doesn’t have so much to do with physical strength as strength of will, as Kutozov proves.

To be or not to be

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’m not sure of all the terms associated with types of free will except for what I’ve read on Wikipedia, but I think our employment of our will has to do with how we view person, action and nature. The area that is currently giving me pause for thought is in the area of desire. It seems that we do not have control, at least initially, over what we desire. Or at least when we are under the influence of Satanic deception. But before that, it seems that Adam and Eve innately desired good, though with an immature conception of what “good” is. They enjoyed their relationship with God and His creation, which was all good. Satan used this desire for good to deceive and manipulate them. It is, after all, good to be like God. It appears though that before her encounter with Satan, Eve did not battle a lust for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was only when Satan focused her attention on it and gave her the idea that it was attainable by warping God’s commandment. The Bible does not say that she considered the Tree when she accepted that it was not attainable through the commandment of God.  In rationalizing about disobedience, she developed a strong desire for the fruit of the Tree. It may have had alluring properties before this, but it had not yet reached the realm of possibility, and thus her relationship with the barrier around it was amicable. She was happy with it until this barrier of God’s commandment became the enemy through a sense of entitlement. She was convinced to presume that she deserved it, that God wrongly withheld it from her, and that taking a shortcut to Godliness was actually beneficial. To reject it at this point would bring about pain. She had now imagined and fantasized about attainment, and to not attain at this point would cause her to experience pain of loss. Pain of hunger, pain of deprivation. Lust.

Her lack of lust up to her encounter with Satan can be described as immaturity and inexperience. She was innocent but untested. She had not considered the content of the one object that had been withheld from her. I believe the Orthodox say that it was God’s intention to eventually share it with Adam and Eve, but not at that point in the story. They were commanded to leave it alone. There is also the taught typology that the tree represents the cross, and the fruit Christ’s sacrifice of His Body and Blood. Without dwelling on the necessity of sin to bring about Christ’s death on the cross, what else could the content of this tree be that they were to abstain from? At first it was simple, trusting obedience that kept them faithful. If Satan hadn’t tempted them, and Christ would have eventually joined with creation without the sinful element of procreation, then His Body and Blood could still have been the content of the tree. It would not have been the cross, but perhaps the tree could still have been the symbol (don’t make too much out of that word) of His joining with creation, albeit without death. A living tree instead of a cut down one.

But they were not ready for this. Perhaps it is because they had not yet been tested, and testing shows your maturity. If they had not eaten they would have had to be matured differently. Perhaps He would have revealed the nature of Good and Evil to them more incrementally than all at once. Having it revealed to them all at once at an immature point in their lives caused a disruption in their development. They were separated from themselves, each other, and God as a result. I can’t help but think of it as sexual revelation and intention to a child before they reach maturity. It is devastating.

Since we are born now with too much information about good and evil, I wonder how this affects our freedom of choice. But first let me continue with Eve’s introduction to lust. Was that her ruin, or was it the actual partaking? If she had abstained, but then felt like she was missing something, would that have ruined paradise for her? Trusting in God’s mercy, love, and providence makes me think He would have gently and satisfactorily guided her through it if she had confided in Him during their walk in the cool of the evening. Perhaps this is what Mary did differently while she was growing up.

I still haven’t dealt with the choosing of desires. Deep down, our desires are good. God intended and provided for us to be warmed and well-fed. When we feel lack, we develop strong desires for something we don’t have. It seems that the object of desire varies from person to person. Some lust for control, food, alcohol, sex, drugs, excitement, and possession of people and things. I don’t know if a person can change the object of their desire. But perhaps it is a shortsighted fulfilment. When we actually indulge in consuming our object of choice (?), after the initial enjoyment and fulfilment, the emptiness returns, along with guilt and a growing need for more of it to satisfy us. If we do not indulge, and ignore it, the desire may wane, but it probably then only goes into remission and remains a part of us, buried though it may be. We distract ourselves from it.

I want to explore the method of staying distracted, or of dealing with it more directly. We all know that we are to stay focused on God. The Church helps us do this by providing enough prayers to keep us distracted from anything else 24 hours a day. This is especially easier in a monastery. As I read in Fr. Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works, though, “psychological” problems still need to be dealt with. I believe the prayers will have a beneficial result, but in interacting with others especially, it seems our unmet needs will show themselves. If we are aware of our desire for other things, we can stifle them, and distract ourselves. But this doesn’t seem ideal. I wonder if instead we can pray that we feel a strong desire and do not believe that the root of this desire is wrong, such as love for God’s creation and his intention for things. That we think that stifling this desire may be stifling a vital part of our ability to love and desire God. The different objects of people’s desires may be sort of like icons of Christ, but we mistake them for the end of our desire. So instead of stifling this desire, we need to look through the object to Christ. This may take a violent refocus. Such as with those 3D computer pictures, where if you force yourself to focus beyond, you can see the object in the otherwise random color swatches. This may be what “plucking out your own eye” means. Not to deny the desire, but to suspend attainment long enough to think about God and submit it to Him. The psychologists call this delaying gratification.

Otherwise, I believe we are annihilating ourselves. One is denying ourselves temporarily, with hope of future fulfiment, the other is killing ourselves perhaps permanently. A genuinely joyful martyrship or a dramatic suicide. To be, or not to be.

Most people choose life, and this can take the form of living from an undisciplined heart. Some choose death, by denying their hearts and living in their heads. But choosing predestined life is learning wisdom, discernment, and what to do with our pain. These are options that we can employ through our free will, by the grace of God. Back again to the objects of desire themselves. It seems that we are pre-programmed somewhat as to the earthly form these will take. We can be genetically (this includes hormones that control many of our cravings) or experientially programmed through our nurture as small children, or other things we willingly subject ourselves to, or find their way to us throughout our lives. These don’t all have to be desires for “bad” things. As far as our desires for certain types of relationships with certain people, I think there are many variables that mold what we think are ideal qualities and what makes us connect with certain people, and them us. It can seem out of our control and will though. In this way it almost seems that “nature” instead of “person” is pre-eminent in controlling our preferences that we desire attachment to or union with. I suppose that Adam and Eve may have preferred different fruits than the other one preferred before the temptation. The Tree then took precedence. This may be a positive indication of an immature desire for physical union with Christ before His Incarnation. That all of us deep down desire this before all things. Our “natural” preference for other things can almost be dismissed scientifically as being constituted by different ratios of hormones, nurture, and other circumstances. But each object is good, and perhaps these differences in preference are providential to make sure that everything gets appreciated. God loves the whole world. It is we who have diminished capacity and only love certain parts of it. Laying aside personal preference I suppose is a step towards gaining an authentic appreciation for other things. I am wrong to selfishly desire and demand only this. I must trust God to ultimately and more satisfactorily fulfill my desires as I obey Him in loving other things. Hopefully He will give me the same desire that He has for other things. And He suffers no want. He is not stifled.

But then there are individual talents. Again, it seems that a person cannot choose their talent. It is a specific gift. I suppose there is an intended fulfillment in loving a craft expressed in a certain way. But the best artists have to chose the disciplined way. Their mind, their will, and their heart are all engaged by their personal faculties purposely employed to reach their individual and varied telos, in Christ, the predestined object of their desire.

Or maybe I’m rationalizing and justifying engagement when withdrawal and stifling are called for. Don’t look at the tree at all, only pray rote prayers, instead of entertaining how to have it and God too.

Voluntarism 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

Apparently there is also a school of thought attributing voluntarism to God. I get uncomfortable in these types of formulations. I don’t know if God’s will is the source of His goodness, for example. It may be, but God is the source of His own will. It starts to sound weird if you say God willed Himself into eternal existence at whatever state His existence is. It reminds me of an animated show I saw as a little girl. I can’t remember what show it was. I’ve had the assumption it was The Little Prince, but I’ve seen a live action version recently and that wasn’t it. Maybe the animated version was different. In this snippet I remember a little boy grabbing the waist of his trousers in the back and lifting himself up into the air. As a little girl I thought that was pretty special, but now I just find it confusing.

When people in theosis levitate, it is God’s energies that are lifting them up. As far as Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, was it His own divinity raising Him up, or the Father and the Spirit’s action? I have been recently struck by the idea that Christ “floats” on the praises of angels and people. I can’t remember the phrase in the services that sparked that idea. If He is dependent to some extent on the worship of others, whom He created to benefit from worshiping Him, and whom He endows with grace to worship Him… now I’m getting uncomfortable with a controlling view of His will again. I have to stay on the human side, and still need clarification on how Christ’s humanity was raised, I can’t comprehend the divine part of it.

Voluntarism

by Andrea Elizabeth

According to Wikipedia, “Voluntarism is a descriptive term for a school of thought that regards the will as superior to the intellect and to emotion. This description has been applied to various points of view, from different cultural eras, in the areas of metaphysics, psychology, sociology, and theology.”

From what I can tell, they are putting the will, the intellect, and emotion into three different categories. By superior, I think voluntarists mean that it is more involved in determining reality than the other two. You can will that something exists even if it is irrational or psychologically uncomfortable to you at the same time. To me though, not having read Schopenhauer at all, but having liked his name since I watched most of My Dinner with Andre, it is placing the human will, in addition to being too compartmentalized from the intellect and emotions/heart, in the role of the source of reality. Perhaps this is what Dr. Hart was against in Christ and Nothing. It is very relativistic, making anyone able to invent their own reality. If they are doing this without their intellect or heart, then they must be completely random and haphazard. Surely they are being influenced by something, and not just choosing what to believe or do willy nilly.

To me, (if that’s not too relativistic, actually it is to the extent that I am not purified, and am governed by my ignorance and passions, which could be categorized under the intellect and the heart respectively, but I will to be influenced by obedience to God’s revelation, even if I sometimes defy myself, but that’s giving too much away in a parenthetical.) To me, according to my memory and understanding of St. Maximus the Confessor, our will is more ontological than that. I wont go into the gnomic will and the mature will in detail as I have already done on this blog, but our wills are made by God to choose God freely. A will that doesn’t choose God is acting against nature and is deluded by sin. Delusion involves the intellect and sin involves rationalization which covers up dark desires, which again, are foreign to our nature, but captivating none-the-less. Therefore, if our minds and emotions are darkened by passions, we often choose, or will, incorrectly, against our predestined nature in Christ. So the choice is, recognize that things aren’t right and will to turn to God to be illumined by grace, which will ultimately lead one to the Orthodox Church and theosis/union with God, if we stay on that path. Or we can choose to invent our own reality based on our darkened demon-influenced intellect and passions, or seemingly random willi-nilliness.

Back to the source of reality. God is ontologically real, whether we choose to believe so or not. Our wills are ontologically made to choose His life and to know Him in purity and blessedness. But we are free to choose otherwise, and I believe that this happens when people love their dark delusions more than they love God. This also has to do with not wanting to face the hell of humiliation that comes when our sins are illumined. Though the deluded state is also hell. Its delights are ontologically temporary and the hangover becomes more intensely painful than the pleasure was. Humility and love for God helps one bear the humiliation. As St. Silouan said, “keep your mind in hell and do not despair”. This is a choice. But it doesn’t have to stay painful. The three youths didn’t feel the flames, and they, like Peter in the water, had the choice to concentrate on Christ instead.

Dr. Hart on ADS, free will, and the Ordo Theologiae

by Andrea Elizabeth

Dr. Hart seems to have a push/pull style. Either in appreciation followed by harsh critique, or the reverse. A bit past half-way in Christ and Nothing he’s nicer to Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics.

In any event, developed Christian theology rejected nothing good in the metaphysics, ethics, or method of ancient philosophy, but — with a kind of omnivorous glee — assimilated such elements as served its ends, and always improved them in the process. Stoic morality, Plato’s language of the Good, Aristotle’s metaphysics of act and potency — all became richer and more coherent when emancipated from the morbid myths of sacrificial economy and tragic necessity. In truth, Christian theology nowhere more wantonly celebrated its triumph over the old gods than in the use it made of the so-called spolia Aegyptorum; and, by despoiling pagan philosophy of its most splendid achievements and integrating them into a vision of reality more complete than philosophy could attain on its own, theology took to itself irrevocably all the intellectual glories of antiquity. The temples were stripped of their gold and precious ornaments, the sacred vessels were carried away into the precincts of the Church and turned to better uses, and nothing was left behind but a few grim, gaunt ruins to lure back the occasional disenchanted Christian and shelter a few atavistic ghosts.

If he, like Goliath, got tired of unworthy opponents, as was brought out in reviews of his new book on neo-atheism, I guess he feels he has to play Good Cop and Bad Cop at the same time. I gather Plato did as well in his dialogues. Fiction writers get to do this too, especially wide thinking ones like Dostoevsky. Here he’s harder on the moderns,

it does seem clear to me that the special preoccupations and perversities of modern philosophy were incubated in the age of late Scholasticism, with the rise of nominalism and voluntarism. Whereas earlier theology spoke of God as Goodness as such, whose every act (by virtue of divine simplicity) expresses His nature, the spectre that haunts late Scholastic thought is a God whose will precedes His nature, and whose acts then are feats of pure spontaneity. It is a logically incoherent way of conceiving of God, as it happens (though I cannot argue that here), but it is a powerful idea, elevating as it does will over all else and redefining freedom — for God and, by extension, for us — not as the unhindered realization of a nature (the liberty to “become what you are”), but as the absolute liberty of the will in determining even what its nature is.

Forgive me for commenting before I finish the rest, but I’m afraid I’ll forget my reaction, and I guess I don’t want to be alone on the journey. At the beginning of the essay he talked about everyone nowadays having too much freedom to choose. I’m not sure how he ties that into nihilism yet, and I’ve never heard that the late scholastics posit that God’s will precedes his nature. The Fathers have been clear, in my reading, about denouncing determinism. The first time I heard a firm stance on this was in Patriarch Jeremiah the II’s three replies [edited 6-28-09 to say that the excerpt about determinism seems to have been edited out, I guess I’ll have to buy the book and excerpt it myself] to the Augsburg Confession given from 1576 to 1581. To me, nature preceding will is deterministic. Further, having will or activities proceed from Person and precede Nature does not necessarily imply “spontaneity”, which has the connotation of reactionarianism or impulsivity. God can still be a consistent good willer. God is good. Subject/God, verb/activities or will, object/nature. Maybe it’s different in the Greek, I don’t know. Even romantic languages put adjectives after nouns. Adjectives are subordinate to the person, and to me, “Nature” is an adjective, or at least words that describe it are.

God has a perfect will, we do not. So so far I do not see the problem with having too many things to choose from in today’s world. (btw, I do not know the difference between voluntarism and free will) But there is more opportunity for an imperfect will to achieve it’s desires, or at least it’s easier and more socially acceptable. This does not have to be a bad thing. To choose rightly out of love rather than lack of opportunity to choose wrongly, or from fear of retribution is a higher way to choose, imo. Mother Gabriella said that the fear of the Lord is being afraid to hurt one’s beloved.

Therefore I do not see that reversing the order allows humans to determine what human nature is. There are semantics involved, but Christ determined all human nature to be in His image and likeness and when humans choose differently in sinning, they exhibit a corrupted, or hidden human nature, not an anything-goes nature.

Unrelated comment: I like what he says about God not creating or needing our sacrifices out of any necessity on His part.

On the Denial of Self and the Cleansing of the Heart

by Andrea Elizabeth

– Naked, small and helpless, you now pass on to the most difficult of all human tasks; to conquer your own selfish desires. Ultimately it is just this “self-persecution” on which your warfare depends, for as long as your selfish will rules, you cannot pray to the Lord with a pure heart: Thy will be done. If you cannot get rid of your own greatness, neither can you lay yourself open for real greatness. If you cling to your own freedom, you cannot share in true freedom, where only one will reigns.

The saint’s deep secret is this: do not seek freedom, and freedom will be given you.

The earth brings forth thorns and thistles, it is said. By the sweat of his brow, with anguish shall man till it; it is he himself, his own substance. The holy Fathers counsel is to begin with small things, for, says Ephraim the Syrian, how can you put out a great fire before you have learned to quench a small one? If you wish to set yourself free from a great suffering, crush the small desires, say the holy Fathers. Do not suppose that the one can be separated from the others; they all hang together like a long chain or a net.

Thus it does not pay to come to grips with the hard-to-master great vices and bad habits you have acquired without at the same time overcoming your small “innocent” weaknesses: your taste for sweets, your urge to talk, your curiosity, your meddling. For, finally, all our desires, great and small, are built on the same foundation, our unchecked habit of satisfying only our own will.

It is the life of our will that is destroyed. Since the Fall the will has been running errands exclusively for its own ego. For this reason our warfare is directed against the life of self-will as such. And it should be undertaken without delay or wearying. If you have the urge to ask something, don’t ask! If you have the urge to drink two cups of coffee, drink only one! If you have the urge to look at the clock, don’t look! If you wish to smoke a cigarette, refrain! If you want to go visiting, stay at home!

This is self-persecution; in this way does one silence, with God’s help, ones loud-voiced will.

You are perhaps wondering, is this really necessary? The holy Fathers reply with another question: do you really think you can fill a jar with clean water before the old, dirty water has been emptied out? Or do you wish to receive a beloved guest in a room crammed with old trash and junk? No; he who hopes to see the Lord as He is, purifies himself, says the Apostle John (1 John 3:3).

Thus let us purify our heart! Let us throw out all the dusty trash that is stored there; let us scrub the dirty floor, wash the windows and open them, in order that light and air may come into the room we are preparing as a sanctuary for the Lord. Then let us put on clean garments, so that the old musty smell may not cling to us and we find ourselves thrust out (Luke 13: 28).

May all this be our daily and hourly travail.

In this way we are only doing what the Lord Himself commanded us through His holy Apostle James, who says: Purify your hearts (4:8). And the Apostle Paul instructs us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). For from within, says Christ, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-3). Therefore He also exhorts the Pharisees: cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also (Matt 23:26).

As we now follow instructions to begin with the inside, we must keep in mind that we are not in the least cleansing our heart for our own sake. It is not for our own enjoyment that we furbish and tidy the guest chamber, but in order that the guest may enjoy it. Will He find it pleasant? we ask ourself. Will He stay? Our every thought is for Him.

Then we withdraw and keep in the background and expect no recompense.

There are three kinds of nature in man, as Nicetas Stethatos further explains: the carnal man, who wants to live for his own pleasure, even if it harms others; the natural man, who wants to please both himself and others; and the spiritual man, who wants to please only God, even if it harms himself.

The first is lower than human nature, the second is normal, the third is above nature; it is life in Christ.

Spiritual man thinks spiritually; his hope is sometime to hear the angel’s joy over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10), and that sinner is himself. Such should be your feeling, and in this hope you should labor, for the Lord has bidden us, be perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48), and to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (6:33).

Therefore give yourself no rest, allow yourself no peace until you have slain that part within you that belongs to your carnal nature. Make it your purpose to track down every sign of the beastial within you and persecute it relentlessly. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal. 5:17).

But if you are fearful of becoming self-righteous from working for your own salvation, or afraid of being overcome by spiritual pride, examine yourself and observe that the person who is afraid of becoming self-righteous suffers from blindness. For he does not see how self-righteous he is.

– Chapter 5 of Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander

The End of That Hideous Strength

by Andrea Elizabeth

As when I read War and Peace in high school, I found the peace parts of THS more engaging than the war parts, but with this book I read both sides. I very much enjoyed Lewis’ entering into the life of women, including how we shop for clothes! If he can endure that, then I will try to be patient with the business world, especially since he wrote critically of it. It is nice to read the thoughts of someone about women who really seems to respect and appreciate them, and I mostly felt, understands them. I admit I found some of the appreciation over the top, but I hope that is my problem and not his. It was also nice to have the women kept in a lovely manor at St. Anne’s, rather than at the battle scene. At least Jane got to participate in the fight against evil by sharing her visions and getting to look for Merlin.

(The following is for those who have already read the book.) At the battle scene though, I was a bit bothered by the idea of people being possessed and losing control of their actions. I was more comfortable with the idea of how the bad guys voluntarily surrendered to evil, letting their true humanity retreat into the background. I’m not sure that the scattering at the Tower of Babel was about people not knowing what even they themselves were saying. Again I was reminded of Steve Carell (who I mentioned in my post on Perelandra that he must have read it) in Bruce Almighty (skip the monkey scene) where Bruce confuses his speech. Both were pretty funny. Also the apocalyptic scene was a bit Old Testament. I don’t know, maybe God still gets rid of people that way.I was very conscious that WWI&II England was a very near reality for Lewis. I felt better though when he described how Frost refused salvation, which gave more legitimization of free will than I thought the conversion of Jane did. Lewis’ background as an atheist offers insight to that point of view.

Like the clockwork figure he had chosen to be, his stiff body, now terribly cold, walked back into the Objective Room, poured out the petrol and threw a lighted match into the pile. Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect that death itself might not after all cure the illusion of being a soul – nay, might prove the entry into a world where that illusion raged infinite and unchecked. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw: he wholly hated. The physical torture of the burning was not fiercer than his hatred of that. With one supreme effort he flung himself back into his illusion. In that attitude eternity overtook him as sunrise in old tales overtakes and turns them into unchangeable stone.