Chapters 1 - 10

Brothers, let faith, hope and love guide every spiritual contemplation, above all love.  The first two teach us to despise those goods which are seen; love, however, joins the soul to the very virtues of God, tracking out with a spiritual sense[1] that which is invisible.
Only God is by nature good[2].  By the care a man bestows on his ways he also becomes good[3] through him who is in reality good[4], the man changed into the very thing he is not.  This happens when through the care bestowed on the good[5] the soul becomes as much in God as the power of the soul, set into motion, wishes.  For it says: ‘Become good[6] and merciful as your Father who is in the Heavens.’
Neither does evil exist in nature nor is anyone evil by nature.  For God did not make an evil thing.  But when in the desire of the heart one brings into appearance[7] that which does not exist in essence, then there begins to exist the very thing that the person making it might wish.  One must therefore ever neglect the habit of evil by means of the care bestowed on the memory of God.  For the nature of the good[8] is stronger than the habit of evil—since the former exists while the latter does not exist except in being practised.
We are all of us men in the image of God; however, to be in the likeness[9] of God is only of those who through much love have enslaved their personal freedom to God.  When we are not of ourselves then we are like him who reconciled us to himself through love, which very thing one will not attain unless he has prevailed upon his soul not to be shaken by the easy glory of this life.
Freedom of choice is the will of a rational soul readily set into motion towards that very thing it [the soul] might wish.  Let us persuade the soul to be by habit readily disposed[10] only towards the good[11] so that we ever consume the memory of evil in good thoughts.[12]
The light of true gnosis[13] is to discern good from evil faultlessly.  For then the road of justice, leading the mind[14] towards the Sun of Justice, introduces the mind into the infinite illumination of gnosis, the mind thenceforth seeking love with boldness.  We must therefore seize with wrathless anger that which is just[15] from those who dare to insult it; for piety’s zeal, not hating but rebuking, shows the victory.
Spiritual discourse gives inner assurance to the spiritual[16] sense for it is brought forth from God by an activity of love, for which very reason also our mind sojourns untormented in the movements of theology[17].  For the mind does not then suffer poverty, which brings care, because the mind is broadened in contemplations as much as the activity of love wishes.  Therefore it is good ever to await in faith set into motion by means of love the illumination of what to say; for there is nothing poorer than an intellect[18] outside of God philosophizing the things of God.
One must neither throw oneself unilluminated into spiritual speculations[19] nor come to speak when shone upon richly by the goodness of the Holy Spirit.  For wherever poverty is, it brings ignorance; but wherever wealth is, it does not permit speech.  In the latter case, the soul drunk with the love of God wishes utterly to delight in the glory of the Lord with silent voice.  Guarding therefore the mean of this activity [of the Holy Spirit][20] one must come to words speaking of God, for this measure grants a certain sort of glorious words.  But the extravagance of enlightenment nourishes the faith of him who speaks in faith, so that he who teaches first tastes the fruits of gnosis by means of love.  For it says: ‘The farmer who toils should first partake of the fruit.’
Wisdom and gnosis are charisms of the one Holy Spirit just as all the divine charisms are; however, each has its proper activity[21] just as each of the others has.  For the Apostle bears witness that to one is given wisdom and to another gnosis according to the same Spirit.  For gnosis joins a man to God by experience, not moving the soul to words about the things experienced.  Therefore some of those who lead the life of monastic asceticism are illuminated by gnosis in conscious perception but do not come to divine words.  If indeed wisdom is given in fear[22] to someone with gnosis (this is rare), it manifests the very activities of gnosis, since gnosis is accustomed to illuminate in activity but wisdom in word.  But prayer[23] and much stillness in complete freedom from care bring gnosis, whereas meditation free of vainglory on the sayings of God—and above all the Grace of God who gives—bring wisdom.
When the irascible part of the soul is stirred against the passions, it must be known that it is time for silence, for it is the hour of battle.  When one sees that confusion coming to serenity either through prayer or through acts of mercy[24] let him be stirred in ardent love[25] of the divine sayings, securing the wings of the mind with the bond of humility.  For if one does not humble oneself greatly[26] one cannot discourse concerning the grandeur of God.

[1] Greek: aisthesei noera.  This could be translated ‘mental sense’.  The ‘spiritual sense’ or ‘mental sense’ is a faculty of the mind or nous by means of which one perceives spiritual things.
[2] Greek: agathos.  In this chapter the author alternates between ‘agathos’ and ‘kalos’.  Agathos is often used of God as the highest good, or even philosophically.  It often conveys a nuance of ‘morally good’.  Kalos corresponds to the English ‘good’ in all its range of meaning.
[3] Greek: agathos. 
[4] Greek: agathos.
[5] Greek: kalon. 
[6] Greek: agathos.
[7] Greek: eidos.  This is an indication, if one is needed, of Diadochos’ erudition.  He is contrasting ousia, ‘essence’, with eidos, ‘form, appearance’.  Eidos applies to the multiplicity of actual objects that exist in the world.  Hence, what Diadochos is saying is that the object that the technician wishes to make does not exist in essence, but the technician conceives it in his heart and then brings it into being through his art as eidos, as one of the manifold objects existing in the world.  Similarly evil has no essential existence, since all that God made is good.  Evil exists only as the consequence of the exercise of free will; that is the significance of ‘habit (Greek: exis)’ and ‘practised’.  Habit is a pattern of acts of the free will; ‘practised’ means ‘done intentionally by the will’.
[8] Greek: kalos.
[9] Greek: omoiosin.
[10] ‘To be by habit … disposed’: echein.  We are using this phrase to convey the deeper sense of echein as a habitual mental disposition.
[11] Greek:  kalos.
[12] It is not entirely clear syntactically whether the author intends the reading we give, or intends ‘it [the soul]’ to read ‘it [the will]’ and ‘ persuade the soul’ to read ‘persuade the will’.  Our reading seems sounder psychologically.
[13] The Greek word gnosis means knowledge.  In this work there is a clear distinction between intuitive knowledge and knowledge arrived at through reasoning or books.  In this and similar passages, by ‘gnosis’ the author is referring to intuitive spiritual knowledge conveyed by spiritual illumination.
[14] Greek: nous.  This is the created spirit of man, his innermost being.
[15] I.e. it is necessary to be zealous for what is true and just.
[16] Greek: noeran.
[17] Greek: theologia.  In this epoch (mid-5th Century), theologia is used to refer not to academic theology but to words spoken about God based on experience of God.  It is also used in the Evagrian school of mysticism for mystical union with God.
[18] Greek: dianoia.  This is the conscious aspect of the human mind, including its ability to reason.
[19] The Greek word literally means ‘contemplations’, but in the sense of words spoken in academic theology, not in the sense of visions of God.
[20] I.e. neither in ignorance of God nor when full of divine illumination.  In classical Greek philosophy virtue is a mean between two extremes.
[21] Greek: energeia.  Similarly for the plural.  This word energeia here refers to the activity or grace of the Holy Spirit (implicitly uncreated for the author’s thought to make any sense) that manifests itself in a particular charism.  Below, the author will refer to the illumination in activity provided by gnosis.  This is the illumination given by the grace of the Holy Spirit to him to whom the charism of gnosis is granted.  The author’s point is that even though illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the ascetic who has the charism of gnosis without the charism of wisdom will not speak of his experience; if, however, both charisms are given to the ascetic then the ascetic will speak (and perhaps write) to explain the movements of gnosis.
[22] ‘In fear’.  The phrase seems to mean that in cases where an ascetic has gnosis, he should receive the charism of wisdom in ‘fear and trembling’.
[23] Greek: euche.  It will be clear that St Diadochos means the Prayer of Jesus, which he will proceed to discuss.
[24] ‘Acts of mercy’.  Greek: eleemosyne.  This word means both ‘mercy’ and ‘alms-giving’.  In context ‘mercy’ would seem to be better since the treatise is directed to monks who are counselled to give everything away in the beginning so as to attain to a complete poverty.  Moreover, in Logos Praktikos 91 Evagrius states: ‘…The same one freed of apparitions one of the brothers who was disturbed at night, ordering him to minister to the sick with fasting. Having been asked, he said: ‘For by nothing thus as by [acts of] mercy are such passions extinguished.’
[25] Greek: eros.  Eros is marital love.
[26] Following the reading of des Places.  The difference with Rutherford is stylistic.