It offers an interesting contrast to a more modern psychological theory of personality types and their characterization by particular passions, known as the Enneagram. This article owes a great debt to Louth's introductions to various key texts on the spiritual life which he has translated in that volume.
I would direct readers with a further interest in the topic to his brilliant Introduction, Ch. All of my translations are taken from there, unless otherwise stated. Centuries on Love have also been translated by G. Extracts from the Letter to Thalassius and the Ambigua are translated with commentary by P. The neo-Platonic ascent to God was seen to take place in three stages: 1 ascetic struggle; 2 meditation, or spiritual contemplation of the natural world; and 3 prayer, or divine contemplation.
I wish to examine how Maximus viewed the role of the passions in each of these stages of the spiritual life. The main influence on Maximus' theory of the passions, with some adaptation, was Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monk d. Maximus' other sources include Diadochus, the mid-fifth century bishop of Photike in Epiros, author of the Century on Perfection, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, author of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, the Divine Names, and the Celestial Hierarchy. Pseudo- Dionysius's precise identity and time of writing are unknown, but he is thought to have lived circa CE.
All of these writers worked and thought within a neo-Platonic framework within which they sought to develop a distinctively Christian view of the spiritual life as lived in community. The bodily passions do not concern us here. The natural passions, or those in accordance with our unfallen nature, are perfectly appropriate if directed towards God.
The rational part of the soul is affected by the passions of vainglory and pride. The irrational desiring part is affected by gluttony, fornication, and avarice.
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All three are affected by accidie or listlessness. Maximus gives a prominent place to passions with social consequences such as resentment and envy, which Evagrius either ignores or subsumes Centuries on Love III. These are the incensive faculty, that is, the source of the soul's energy, and the desiring faculty of the soul. Unlike Evagrius, Maximus does not accept the dualistic doctrine of Origen concerning the relationship between our body and our soul. According to the Origenist myth of origins, pure souls, which were originally incorporeal, once enjoyed unfettered contemplation of God.
As the heavenly being Satan grew tired of such perfect enjoyment, he and other heavenly beings fell from heaven. The souls fell into the bodies of angels, human beings and demons, in descending order as the sin was greater. Thus the embodiment of human beings was seen as a punishment, and as the end result of abandoning perfect rest in God through movement away from God the triad of rest, to movement, to embodiment. Evagrius stated explicitly no equivalent of Evagrian grief in the Enneagram. Vainglory and pride have been reduced there to the single passion of pride.
Envy does not appear on the Evagrian list although Maximus gives it a prominent place. Fear is not recognised as a principal passion by Evagrius. The arrogant accomplish nothing godly, and the vainglorious produce nothing natural. Pride is a combination of these two vices. Laga and C. Steel, Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 22, , trans. Blowers and Wilken, On the Cosmic Mystery, For Maximus, however, they are neutral in themselves and can be transformed into vices those which are contrary to our pre-fallen nature or virtues those in conformity with our pre-fallen nature.
Maximus however sees the passions as the product our relationships with others. Maximus puts the emphasis on love expressed in relationship. The spiritual disciple needs a guide or teacher because apatheia can lead to the passions of vainglory and pride, to which the only antidote is humility, expressed in obedience to a spiritual father or mother.
So, for example, debilitating sexual desire would be a logismos, while fornication would be the passion resulting from putting this thought into action. For a monk, any degree of sexual desire was seen as inappropriate, while for a non-celibate lay person, lust was regarded as a normal bodily passion.
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First the passions have to be removed, before one can deal with the logismoi. Frankenburg, Evagrius Ponticus Berlin: Wiedmann, My translation. Neil, G. Dunn and L.
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Cross Sydney: St Pauls, , My sincere apologies to Virginia Burrus for misidentifying her ibid. There are also natural logismoi worthy of the soul engaged in contemplating and knowing divine mysteries. Progress from one stage to the next was not linear or sequential, but allowed for overlap and regression in the disciple's journey. The aim of the ascetic struggle is dispassion, or disinterestedness apatheia.
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Trying to love God with only part of our soul is doomed to fail. The sequence of virtues that lead to dispassion follow each other like links in a chain, starting with the fundamental link of faith. Faith leads to fear of God, which leads to complete self-control, which in turn produces patience and forbearance.
Patience and forbearance generate hope in God, which leads to dispassion and ultimately to love Centuries on Love I. The path from being mastered by the passions to being able to control them in the state of apatheia is the path of personal development from self-love or egotism philautia , the mother of the passions, to love of others philadelphia.
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This apatheia is not passive but an active state. Its outcome is virtue, which with practice becomes a habit of mind. Blowers and Wilken, On the Cosmic Mystery, and n. Maximus writes in Centuries on Love I. This involves a lot more than appreciation of the natural world. It is rather the contemplation of the rational principles logoi that underpin the natural order. It could be a topic. It could be a particular habit of yours. It could even be a hobby. It could be something as trivial as a chore. There has got to be something that makes your whole being happy to the point of bliss.
Whatever it is that makes you so happy, is or atleast is part of your truest passion. Happiness comes to those who are truly content and contentment comes to those who Know their passion. Just follow the breadcrumbs that make you happy. Put it all together…and you are on the right track. What is that one thing you would do for FREE?
The whole world runs on money- you and me both know that. But still, in this money money world, there are things people do just for the sheer pleasure of doing. Take for example a painter- he paints, he creates, he goes nights without sleep, and sometimes months without proper food, but he still paints. He does it not for money, he does it for his own satisfaction and contentment.
What is it that you would do without worrying about the momentary gains? There in lies your true passion.
Doing what you have a passion for brings out your best, and this leads to greatness. Do you think that the most successful people in the world got to where they are because they wanted to get rich? So think about something that you would just love to do, even if you were not getting paid. Think about something that you look forward to do, something that you wish you could do all the time. Sometimes, even without being aware of it, we talk and think about things we are passionate about.
Pay attention to your thoughts, to your conversations. Notice a pattern in them. What topic makes you talk non stop. In this pattern you will find your passion. A very good way to figure this out, is to ask your friends and family as to what they think you like to talk about the most. Ask them what topic makes your eyes brighten up, and changes your entire behavior. Their answers will be surprising to you. Alright, this question might be a bit morbid, but one which we truly need to ask our-self. We all have these dreams, and somehow, life pushes us in another direction.
The next thing we know, we are far from those dreams we used to have. If you were at the end of your life, what would you regret not having pursued? There is nothing worse than arriving at the end of the journey and having regret.
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