John of Damascus, On the 8 Forms of Evil’s Spirits

1. It happens, my brother, that there are eight states of mind which make war on a brother, just like the church Fathers claim. First is gluttony; second, evil and base lust; third, greed; fourth, grief; sixth, laziness; seventh, arrogance; and the eighth, vanity.

2. So you ought to know, you monk, and focus on how much pain is inflicted and stirred up by our enemies and spirits of evil, and what sort of intention your mind feels disposed towards.

3. Even, if you feel, say, that you are being riled up by gluttony and with over-indulgence, straighten your stomach up, setting limits for food and drink in amount, within measure; keep a continuing recollection of the soul’s unconscious, both of future decision-making and fear of hell-fire; but likewise as well, say, for the desired will of heavens’ kingdom. For you are yet unable to overcome pleasures of the paunch, and may be loathsome.

4. But if you are once again overcome by the the shameful spirit and by low-down desire, strengthen bodily discipline, and contrition of spirit, and vigilance, after fervent prayer; in return, too, use them to handle irreverence, and misjudging someone or slandering them, or being wholly offensive, with these acts in turn. Yet consider death too, and welcome thirsting eagerly; and desire not to approach women at all, or even should you be free just to meet face to face, may you wish to get out of it.

5. And if you wish to overcome money-grubbing, cherish poverty, and welcome imperfection; and think of the judgment of Judah and how he presented the Lord, by means of it, unto the lawless; reflect on how every greedy and idolatrous man is called before the divine Writ; note also that it berefts us of our hope in God, and that the possession of material goods is mighty temporary, but for the money-grubbers, the punishment is unending; so then, by reckoning these reasons, and through seeking autocracy alone no longer, you shall overcome feeling this experience.

6.1 Now if you are troubled by worldly pain again, and are crying, you ought to pray constantly, and put all hope towards God, and to practice the message of the holy Scriptures; and you should be involved with the devout monks and ones who fear the Lord, and the people present all, so as not to undervalue their worth, and to conceive of the enjoyment in heaven, and the rewards of the righteous. And if you are hit by someone, or disrespected, or rejected, be not aggrieved, but rather take heart: but your grief only hurts when you are not right with God; for in this way, you will be able to change from feeling like this in spirit.

6.2 But when you might get riled up again by desire or quick temper, apply sympathy, and do service for the brethren, and if possible, wash their feet in humility consistently, and seek agreeable pardon from every person, and continually look into the feeble ones, & sing the psalms with feeling — immediately shall you be released from the feeling.

7. And if you wish to overcome anxiety, get to work on any little old handicraft, or read something, and pray regularly with secure hope of the right goods; consider both those giving up the ghost, and the pathway and suffocation of the wayward, how they are without mercy and punished, and thus will you have reprieve from suffering.

8. But if you become mighty tyrannical because of vanity and praise from men, you must not do anything to prove it to people: instead you should do all your good works in secret, no one else aware at all, save God alone; and welcome neither fawning praise, nor honors of men, nor fine clothes, nor place of honor and the best seat; rather instead, welcome men to find fault with you and accuse you and dishonor you falsely: even consider yourself more wayward than any sinner.

9. But if you find yourself assailed by diabolical passion of the most excessive arrogance, you ought not attack, nor judge, nor look down on anyone at all, but rather consider oneself as ransom for all humanity and be aware continually that unless the Lord built the house, the builders came for nothing; also, that you think of yourself as a debtor at all times, worthless in the sight of God and men’s. Also, don’t be proud, until the moment you hear full sentence — when you look upon that man, who even after lying there in the bride-chamber, is bound by the hands and feet, and even being cast out into eternal darkness; and whenever you fast or keep vigil or prostrate self or sing or continue enduring or pray begging for forgiveness, or do some good thing in other respects, do not argue that it may have happened from my own personal labor, or because of private wishes, but rather comes about from out of God’s support and assistance, and not¬†of my eager zeal. Be always ever zealous, brother, to remain simple and pure at all times; and do not keep one thing in your heart, another in your mouth: for this is a tricky matter; and, doing this like so, will you escape destruction and a bad situation.

On the sensations, some are bodily and some, psychological; and we say the body’s passions are gluttony, fornication, inebriation, immorality; mental feelings are hatred towards one’s neighbor, jealousy, anger, vanity, pride. Now these influences do they work into our soul, — absent grace and self-control; and also, the emotions from fasting and prayer. For at that time the mind accepts its light proper, and looks on God free from obstruction.

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