The Conference of Abba Daniel
COLLATIO QUARTA, Quae est abbatis Danielis

 Benedict as Hermit, 1575

(tr. adapted. by L.Dysinger, O.S.B: based on  E.C.S. Gibson, , NPNF 2nd ser. , vol 11, pp. 295-307)




Of the life of Abbot Daniel.



AMONG the other heroes of Christian philosophy we also knew Abbot Daniel, who was not only the equal of those who dwelt in the desert of Scete in every sort of virtue, but was specially marked by the grace of humility. This man on account of his purity and gentleness, though in age the junior of most, was preferred to the office of the diaconate by the blessed Paphnutius, presbyter in the same desert: for the blessed Paphnutius was so delighted with his excellent qualities, that, as he knew that he was his equal in virtue and grace of life, he was anxious also to make him his equal in the order of the priesthood. And since he could not bear that he should remain any longer in an inferior office, and was also anxious to provide a worthy successor to himself in his lifetime, he promoted him to the dignity of the priesthood.

I. Inter ceteros Christianae philosophiae uiros abbatem quoque uidimus Danihelem, aequalem quidem in omni uirtutum genere his qui in heremo Sciti conmanebant, sed peculiarius gratia humilitatis ornatum. Qui merito puritatis ac mansuetudinis suae a beato Pafnutio solitudinis eiusdem presbytero, et quidem cum multis iunior esset aetate, ad diaconii est praelectus officium. In tantum enim idem beatus Pafnutius uirtutibus ipsius adgaudebat, ut quem uitae meritis et gratia parem nouerat, coaequare sibi etiam sacerdotii ordine festinaret : siquidem nequaquam ferens in inferiore eum ministerio diutius inmorari optansque sibimet successorem dignissimum prouidere superstes eum presbyterii honore prouexit.

He however relinquished nothing of his former customary humility, and when the other was present, never took upon himself anything from his advance to a higher order, but when Abbot Paphnutius was offering spiritual sacrifices, ever continued to act as a deacon in the office of his former ministry. However, the blessed Paphnutius though so great a saint as to possess the grace of foreknowledge in many matters, yet in this case was disappointed of his hope of the succession and the choice he had made, for he himself passed to God no long time after him whom he had prepared as his successor.

2. Qui tamen prioris humilitatis consuetudinem non omittens nihil umquam sibi illo praesente de sublimioris ordinis adiectione donauit, sed semper abbate Pafnutio spiritales hostias offerente hic uelut diaconus in prioris ministerii permansit officio. In quo tamen beatum Pafnutium, cum talis uir esset ac tantus, ut in multis etiam praescientiae gratiam possideret, haec spes substitutionis electioque frustrata est. Nam non multo post hunc, quem sibi parauerat successorem, praemisit ad deum.




An investigation of the origin of a sudden change of feeling from inexpressible joy to extreme dejection of mind
CAPUT II. Quaerit unde oriatur repentina commutatio mentium ab ineffabili laetitia in moestissimam animi dejectionem.



SO then we asked this blessed Daniel why it was that as we sat in the cells we were sometimes filled with the utmost gladness of heart, together with inexpressible delight and abundance of the holiest feelings, so that I will not say speech, but feeling could not follow it, and pure prayers were readily breathed, and the mind being filled with spiritual fruits, praying to God even in sleep could feel that its petitions rose lightly and powerfully to God: and again, why it was that for no reason we were suddenly filled with the utmost grief, and weighed down with unreasonable depression, so that we not only felt as if we ourselves were, overcome with such feelings, but also our cell grew dreadful, reading palled upon us, aye and our very prayers were offered up unsteadily and vaguely, and almost as if we were intoxicated: so that while we were groaning and endeavouring to restore ourselves to our former disposition, our mind was unable to do this, and the more earnestly it sought to fix again its gaze upon God, so was it the more vehemently carried away to wandering thoughts by shifting aberrations and so utterly deprived of all spiritual fruits, as not to be capable of being roused from this deadly slumber even by the desire of the kingdom of heaven, or by the fear of hell held out to it. To this he replied.

II. Hic igitur beatus Danihel inquirentibus nobis, cur interdum residentes in cellula tanta alacritate cordis cum ineffabili quodam gaudio et exuberantia sacratissimorum sensuum repleremur, ut eam non dicam sermo subsequi, sed ne ipse quidem sensus occurreret, oratio quoque pura emitteretur ac prompta et mens plena spiritalibus fructibus preces suas efficaces ac leues etiam per soporem supplicans ad deum peruenire sentiret, ac rursum nullis exsistentibus causis tanto subito repleremur angore et inrationabili quadam maestitia premeremur, ut non solum nosmet ipsos huiusmodi sensibus arescere sentiremus, uerum etiam horreret cella, sorderet lectio, ipsa quoque instabilis ac nutabunda et quodammodo ebria emitteretur oratio, ita ut ingemescentibus et conantibus nobis ad directionem pristinam reuocari mens nostra non posset, quantoque intentius ad dei reduceretur intuitum, tanto uehementius ad discursus instabiles lubrico raperetur excessu et ita omni spiritali fructu redderetur effeta, ut nec desiderio regni caelorum nec metu gehennae proposito ab hoc letali quodam somno ualeret excitari, ita respondit.





His answer to the question raised.
CAPUT III. Responsio super proposita quaestione.



A THREEFOLD account of this mental dryness of which you speak has been given by the Elders. For it comes either from carelessness on our part, or from the assaults of the devil, or from the permission and allowance of the Lord. From carelessness on our part, when through our own faults, coldness has come upon us, and we have behaved carelessly and hastily, and owing to slothful idleness have fed on bad thoughts, and so make the ground of our heart bring forth thorns and thistles; (cf. Evag. Ant. 1.1) which spring up in it, and consequently make us sterile, and powerless as regards all spiritual fruit and meditation. From the assaults of the devil when, sometimes, while we are actually intent on good desires, our enemy with crafty subtilty makes his way into our heart, and without our knowledge and against our will we are drawn away from the best intentions.

III. Tripertita nobis a maioribus ratio super hac quam dicitis sterilitate mentis est tradita. Aut enim de neglegentia nostra aut de inpugnatione diaboli aut de dispensatione domini ac probatione descendit. Et de neglegentia quidem, cum uitio nostro tepore praecedente incircumspecte nosmet ipsos et remissius exhibentes et per ignauam desidiam noxiis cogitationibus pasti terram cordis nostri spinas et tribulos facimus germinare, quibus in ea pullulantibus consequenter efficimur steriles atque ab omni spiritali fructu et contemplatione ieiuni. De inpugnatione uero diaboli, cum etiam bonis nonnumquam studiis dediti callida subtilitate mentem nostram aduersario penetrante uel ignorantes ab optimis intentionibus abstrahimur uel inuiti.




How there is a twofold reason for the dispensation of and testing by God.
CAPUT IV. Quod dispensationis ac probationis Dei duplex causa sit.



BUT for God’s dispensation and testing there is a twofold reason. First, that being for a short time forsaken by the Lord, and observing with all humility the weakness of our own heart, we may not be puffed up on account of the previous purity of heart granted to us by His visitation; and that by proving that when we are forsaken by Him we cannot possibly recover our former state of purity and delight by any groanings and efforts of our own, we may also learn that our previous gladness of heart resulted not from our own earnestness but from His gift, and that for the present time it must be sought once more from His grace and enlightenment.

IIII. Dispensationis autem ac probationis duplex causa est. Prima, ut paulisper a domino derelicti et mentis nostrae infirmitatem humiliter intuentes super praecedente puritate cordis, quae nobis est illius uisitatione donata, nullatenus extollamur, probantesque nos ab eodem derelictos gemitibus nostris et industria illum laetitiae ac puritatis statum recuperare non posse intellegamus et praeteritam cordis alacritatem non nostro studio, sed illius nobis dignatione conlatam et praesentem de ipsius rursum gratia et inluminatione esse poscendam.

But a second reason for this allowance, is to prove our perseverance, and steadfastness of mind, and real desires, and to show in us, with what purpose of heart, or earnestness in prayer we seek for the return of the Holy Spirit, when He leaves us, and also in order that when we discover with what efforts we must seek for that spiritual gladness--when once it is lost--and the joy of purity, we may learn to preserve it more carefully, when once it is secured, and to hold it with firmer grasp. For men are generally more careless about keeping whatever they think can be easily replaced.

2. Secunda uero porbationis est causa, ut perseuerantia nostra uel mentis constantia et desiderium conprobetur, et qua intentione cordis uel orationum instantia deserentem nos uisitationem sancti spiritus requiramus, manifestetur in nobis, ac pariter agnoscentes, quanto labore amissum istud spiritale gaudium et puritatis laetitia conquiratur, sollicitius inuentam custodire ac tenere adtentius studeamus. Quodammodo enim neglegentius custodiri solet quidquid creditur facile posse reparari.




How our efforts and exertions are of no use without God’s help.
CAPUT V. Quod studium et industria nostra nihil sine adjutorio Dei praevaleat.



AND by this it is clearly shown that God’s grace and mercy always work in us what is good, and that when it forsakes us, the efforts of the worker are useless, and that however earnestly a man may strive, he cannot regain his former condition without His help, and that this saying is constantly fulfilled in our case: that it is “not of him that willeth or runneth but of God which hath mercy.” (Rom. 9:16) And this grace on the other hand sometimes does not refuse to visit with that holy inspiration of which you spoke, and with an abundance of spiritual thoughts, even the careless and indifferent; but inspires the unworthy, arouses the slumberers, and enlightens those who are blinded by ignorance, and mercifully reproves us and chastens us, shedding itself abroad in our hearts, that thus we may be stirred by the compunction which He excites, and impelled to rise from the sleep of sloth. Lastly we are often filled by His sudden visitation with sweet odours, beyond the power of human composition--so that the soul is ravished with these delights, and caught up, as it were, into an ecstasy of spirit, and becomes oblivious of the fact that it is still in the flesh.

V. Per quae euidenter probatur gratiam dei ac misericordiam semper operari in nobis ea quae bona sunt : qua deserente nihil ualere studium laborantis et quantamlibet adnitentis industriam sine ipsius iterum adiutorio statum pristinum recuperare non posse illudque in nobis iugiter adinpleri : non uolentis neque currentis, sed miserentis est dei . Quae gratia nonnumquam e contrario neglegentes ac resolutos inspiratione hac quam dicitis sancta et abundantia spiritalium cogitationum uisitare non rennuit, sed inspirat indignos, exsuscitat dormitantes et inluminat ignorantiae caecitate possessos clementerque nos arguit atque castigat infundens se cordibus nostris, ut uel sic de inertiae somno conpunctione ipsius instigati consurgere prouocemur. Denique frequenter etiam odoribus ultra omnem suauitatem conpositionis humanae in his ipsis subito uisitationibus adimplemur, ita ut mens hac oblectatione resoluta in quendam spiritus rapiatur excessum seque conmorari obliuiscatur in carne.




How it is sometimes to our advantage to be abandoned by God.
CAPUT VI. Quod utile nobis sit interdum a Domino derelinqui.



BUT the blessed David recognizes that sometimes this departure of which we have spoken, and (as it were) desertion by God may be to some extent to our advantage, so that he was unwilling to pray, not that he might not be absolutely abandoned by God in anything (for he was aware that this would have been disadvantageous both to himself and to human nature in its course towards perfection) but he rather entreated that it might be in measure and degree, saying “Do not utterly abandon me” (Ps. 118 (119):8) as if to say in other words: I know that thou dost abandon thy saints to their advantage, in order to prove them,

VI. In tantum uero illum quem diximus abscessum et ut ita loquar desertionem dei beatus Dauid utilem esse cognouit, ut nequaquam orare maluerit, ne a deo in nullo penitus relinqueretur (hoc enim sciebat incongruum esse uel sibi uel humanae naturae ad quamlibet peruenienti perfectionem), sed temperari eam potius deprecatus sit dicens : non me derelinquas usque quaque , ac si diceret aliis uerbis : scio quod derelinquere soleas utiliter tuos sanctos, ut eos probes.

for in no other way could they be tempted by the devil, unless they were for a little abandoned by Thee. And therefore I ask not that Thou shouldest never abandon me, for it would not be well for me not to feel my weakness and say “It is good for me that Thou hast brought me low” (Ps. 118 (119):71) nor to have no opportunity of fighting. And this I certainly should not have, if the Divine protection shielded me incessantly and unbrokenly. For the devil will not dare to attack me while supported by Thy defence, as he brings both against me and Thee this objection and complaint, which he ever slanderously brings against Thy champions, “Does Job serve God for nought? Hast not Thou made a fence for him and his house and all his substance round about?” (Job 1:9, 10) But I rather entreat that Thou forsake me not utterly--what the Greeks call ἕως σφόδρα (heōs sphodra), i.e., too much.

2. Aliter enim ab aduersario temptari non possunt, nisi a te paulisper fuerint derelicti. Et ideo non rogo ut numquam me derelinquas, quia non expedit mihi, ut non uel meam infirmitatem sentiens dicam : bonum mihi quod humiliasti me , uel exercitium non habeam proeliandi. Quod sine dubio habere non potero, si mihi semper et indisrupte cohaeserit diuina protectio. Suffultum namque me tua defensione temptare diabolus non audebit, illud obiciens et exprobrans uel mihi uel tibi, quod aduersus athletas tuos solet calumniosa uoce proferre : numquid gratis Iob colit deum? Nonne tu uallasti eum, ac domum eius, uniuersamque substantiam eius per circuitum ? Sed magis peto ne me usque quaque deseras, quod Graece dicitur ως σφδρα, id est usque ad nimietatem.

For, first, as it is advantageous to me for Thee to abandon me a little, that the steadfastness of my love may be tried, so it is dangerous if Thou suffer me to be forsaken excessively in proportion to my faults and what I deserve, since no power of man, if in temptation it is forsaken for too long a time by Thine aid, can endure by its own steadfastness, and not forthwith give in to the power of the enemy’s side, unless Thou Thyself, as Thou knowest the strength of man, and moderatest his struggles, “Suffer us not to be tempted above that we are able, but makest with the temptation a way of escape that we may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

3. Quantum enim mihi utile est si me paululum subrelinquas, ut desiderii mei constantia conprobetur, tantum noxium est si pro meritis ac delictis meis nimium me deseri patiaris, quia nulla uirtus humana, si diutius in temptatione tuo deseratur auxilio, sua poterit constantia perdurare et non protinus aduersarii uel potentia uel factione subcumbere, nisi tu ipse, qui es humanarum uirium conscius ac luctaminum moderator, non permiseris temptari nos super id quod possumus, sed feceris cum temptatione et exitum, ut sustinere possimus .

And something of this sort we read in the book of Judges was mystically designed in the matter of the extermination of the spiritual nations which were opposed to Israel: “These are the nations, which the Lord left that by them He might instruct Israel, that they might learn to fight with their enemies,” and again shortly after: “And the Lord left them that He might try Israel by them, whether they would hear the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses, or not.” (Judg. 3:1-4)

4. Tale quid et in Iudicum libro super exterminatione gentium spiritalium quae aduersantur Israheli mystice legimus designatum : hae sunt gentes, quas dominus dereliquit, ut erudiret in eis Israhelem, et haberent consuetudinem cum hostibus proeliandi , et iterum post pauca : dimisitque eos dominus, ut in ipsis experiretur Israhelem, utrum audiret mandata domini quae praeceperat patribus eorum per manum Moysi, an non .

And this conflict God reserved for Israel, not from envy of their peace, or from a wish to hurt them, but because He knew that it would be good for them that while they were always oppressed by the attacks of those nations they might not cease to feel themselves in need of the aid of the Lord, and for this reason might ever continue to meditate on Him and invoke His aid, and not grow careless through lazy ease, and lose the habit of resisting, and the practice of virtue. For again and again, men whom adversity could not overcome, have been cast down by freedom from care and by prosperity.

5. Quam utique pugnam non inuidens deus quieti Israhelis nec male eidem consulens, sed sciens esse utilem reseruauit, ut dum gentium semper istarm inpugnatione deprimitur, numquam se sentiret auxilio domini non egere, et ob id semper in eius meditatione et inuocatione persistens nec inerti otio solueretur nec bellandi usum et exercitia uirtutis amitteret. Frequenter enim, quos non potuerunt aduersa superare, securitas et prosperitas deiecerunt.




Of the value of the conflict which the Apostle makes to consist in the strife between the flesh and the spirit.
CAPUT VII. De utilitate ejus pugnae quam Apostolus ponit in colluctatione carnis et spiritus.



THIS conflict too we read in the Apostle has for our good been placed in our members: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh. But these two are opposed to each other so that ye should not do what ye would.” (Gal. 5:17) You have here too a contest as it were implanted in our bodies, by the action and arrangement of the Lord. For when a thing exists in everybody universally and without the slightest exception, what else can you think about it except that it belongs to the substance of human nature, since the fall of the first man, as it were naturally: and when a thing is found to be congenital with everybody, and to grow with their growth, how can we help believing that it was implanted by the will of the Lord, not to injure them but to help them?

VII. Hanc pugnam utiliter nostris quoque insertam membris etiam in apostolo ita legimus : caro enim concupiscit aduersus spiritum, spiritus uero aduersus carnem : haec autem inuicem aduersantur sibi, ut non quaecumque uultis illa faciatis . Habes et hic pugnam inuisceratam quodammodo corpori nostro dispensatione domini procurante. Quidquid enim generaliter et sine aliqua exceptione omnibus inest, quid aliud iudicari potest nisi ipsi humanae substantiae post ruinam primi hominis uelut naturaliter adtributum : et quod uniuersis congenitum concretumque deprehenditur, quomodo non credendum sit arbitrio domini non nocentis, sed consulentis insertum?

But the reason of this conflict; viz., of flesh and spirit, he tells us is this: “that ye should not do what ye would.” And so, if we fulfil what God arranged that we should not fulfil, i.e., that we should not do what we liked, how can we help believing that it is bad for us? And this conflict implanted in us by the arrangement of the Creator is in a way useful to us, and calls and urges us on to a higher state: and if it ceased, most surely there would ensue on the other hand a peace that is fraught with danger.

2. Causam uero huius belli, id est carnis et spiritus, hanc esse pronuntiat : ut non, inquit, quaecumque uultis illa faciatis. Ergo id quod procurauit deus ut a nobis non possit impleri, id est ut non quaecumque uolumus illa faciamus, si inpleatur quid aliud credi potest esse quam noxium? Et est quodammodo utilis haec pugna nobis dispensatione creatoris inserta et ad meliorem nos statum prouocans atque conpellens, qua sublata procul dubio pax e contrario perniciosa succederet.




A question, how it is that in the Apostle’s chapter, after he has spoken of the lusts of the flesh and spirit opposing  one another, he adds a third thing; viz., man’s will.
CAPUT VIII. Interrogatio quid sit quod in capitulo Apostoli post adversantes sibi concupiscentias carnis et spiritus, tertia adjiciatur voluntas.



GERMANUS: Although some glimmer of the sense now seems clear to us, yet as we cannot thoroughly grasp the Apostle’s meaning, we want you to explain this more clearly to us. For the existence of three things seems to be indicated here: first, the struggle of the flesh against the spirit, secondly the desire of the spirit against the flesh, and thirdly our own free will, which seems to be placed between the two, and of which it is said: “Ye should not do what ye will.” And on this subject though as I said we can gather some hints, from what you have explained of the meaning, yet--since this conference gives the opportunity--we are anxious to have it more fully explained to us.

VIII. GERMANVS : Licet nobis quaedam intellectus linea iam praelucere uideatur, tamen quia necdum possumus apostoli sententiam ad liquidum peruidere, uolumus haec nobis apertius explanari. Tres enim res hic indicari uidentur, prima carnis aduersus spiritum pugna, secunda spiritus aduersus carnem concupiscentia, tertia uoluntas nostra, quae uelut media conlocatur, de qua dicitur : ut non quaecumque uultis illa faciatis. Super qua re licet ut dixi suspiciones quasdam ex his quae exposita sunt intellegentiae colligamus, uolumus tamen, quia se huius obtulit conlationis occasio, aliquid nobis lucidius disputari.




The answer on the understanding of one who asks rightly.
CAPUT IX. Responsio de intellectu recte interrogantis.



DANIEL: It belongs to the understanding to discern the distinctions and the drift of questions; and it is a main part of knowledge to understand how ignorant you are. Wherefore it is said that “if a fool asks questions, it will be accounted wisdom,” (Prov. 17:28 (LXX)) because, although one who asks questions is ignorant of the answer to the question raised, yet as he wisely asks, and learns what he does not know, this very fact will be counted as wisdom in him, because he wisely discovers what he was ignorant of.

VIIII. DANIHEL : Discernere diuisiones et lineas quaestionum portio intellectus est, et maxima pars intellegentiae scire quid nescias. Propter quod dicitur : insipienti interroganti sapientia reputabitur , quia licet is qui interrogat uim propositae quaestionis ignoret, tamen quia prudenter inquirit et intellegit quid non intellegat, hoc ipsum illi reputatur ad sapientiam, eo quod quid nesciret prudenter agnouerit.

According then to this division of yours, it seems that in this passage the Apostle mentions three things, the lust of the flesh against the spirit, and of the spirit against the flesh, the mutual struggle of which against each other appears to have this as its cause and reason; viz., “that,” says he, “we should not do what we would.” There remains then a fourth case, which you have overlooked; viz., that we should do what we would not. Now then, we must first discover the meaning of those two desires, i.e., of the flesh and spirit, and so next learn to discuss our free will, which is placed between the two, and then lastly in the same way we can see what cannot belong to our free will.

2. Secundum diuisionem itaque uestram tres hoc loco res ab apostolo nominari uidentur, concupiscentia carnis aduersus spiritum et spiritus aduersus carnem, quarum aduersus se inuicem pugna hanc uidetur habere causam atque rationem, ut ea quae uolumus, inquit, facere nequeamus. Quarta igitur superest causa quam minime uos uidistis, ut illud scilicet quod nolumus faciamus. Nunc ergo opus est nobis, ut prius duarum concupiscentiarum uim, id est carnis et spiritus, agnoscamus, et ita demum quae uoluntas sit nostra, quae inter utraque posita est, discutere ualeamus, deinde quid possit uoluntatis nostrae non esse similiter discernamus.




That the word flesh is not used with one single meaning only.
CAPUT X. Quod vocabulum carnis non in una significatione ponatur.



WE find that the word flesh is used in holy Scripture with many different meanings: for sometimes it stands for the whole man, i.e., for that which consists of body and soul, as here “And the Word was made flesh,” (John 1:14) and “All flesh shall see the salvation of our God.” (Luke 3:6) Sometimes it stands for sinful and carnal men, as here “My spirit shall not remain in those men, because they are flesh.” (Gen. 6:3)

|P X. Vocabulum carnis in scripturis sanctis multifarie legimus nominari. Nam nonnumquam significat hominem integrum, id est qui ex corpore constat et anima, ut ibi : et uerbum caro factum est et : uidebit omnis caro salutare dei nostri , nonnumquam homines peccatores atque carnales, ut ibi : non permanebit spiritus meus in hominibus istis, eo quod sint caro .

Sometimes it is used for sins themselves, as here: “But ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit,” (Rom. 8:9) and again “Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God:” lastly there follows, “Neither shall corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50) Sometimes it stands for consanguinity and relationship, as here: “Behold we are thy bone and thy flesh,” (2 Sam. 5:1) and the Apostle says: “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them who are my flesh, and save some of them.” (Rom. 11:14)

2. Interdum pro ipsis peccatis ponitur, ut ibi : uos autem non estis in carne sed in spiritu , et iterum : caro et sanguis regnum dei non possidebunt . Denique sequitur : neque corruptio incorruptelam possidebit . Nonnumquam pro agnatione et propinquitate, ut ibi : ecce nos os tuum et caro tua sumus , et apostolus : si quo modo in aemulationem inducam carnem meam et saluos faciam aliquos ex illis.

We must therefore inquire in which of these four meanings we ought to take the word flesh in this place, for it is clear that it cannot possibly stand as in the passage where it is said “The Word was made flesh,” and “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Neither can it have the same meaning as where it is said “My Spirit shall not remain in those men because they are flesh,” because the word flesh is not used here as it is there where it stands simply for a sinful man--when he says” The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17) Nor is he speaking of things material, but of realities which in one and the same man struggle either at the same time or separately, with the shifting and changing of time.

3. Quaerendum ergo nobis est, secundum quam significationem ex his quatuor carnem hic debeamus accipere. Manifestum namque est secundum illud quod positum est : et uerbum caro factum est uel illud : et uidebit omnis caro salutare dei penitus stare non posse. Sed neque secundum illud quod dicitur : non permanebit spiritus meus in hominibus istis, eo quod sint caro, quia non, sicut ibi abrupte de homine peccatore, ita et hic ponitur caro, cum dicit : caro concupiscit aduersus spiritum et spiritus aduersus carnem . Neque enim de rebus substantialibus loquitur, sed de actualibus, quae in uno eodemque homine uel pariter uel singillatim cum quadam temporis uicissitudine et mutatione luctantur.




What the Apostle means by flesh in this passage, and what the lust of the flesh is.
CAPUT XI. Quid in hoc loco caro ab Apostolo nominetur, et quid sit concupiscentia carnis.



WHEREFORE in this passage we ought to take “flesh” as meaning not man, i.e., his material substance, but the carnal will and evil desires, just as “spirit” does not mean anything material, but the good and spiritual desires of the soul: a meaning which the blessed Apostle has clearly given just before, where he begins: “But I say, walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the desires of the flesh; for the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh: but these are contrary the one to the other, that ye may not do what ye would.”

XI. Quamobrem in hoc loco carnem non hominem, id est hominis substantiam, sed uoluntatem carnis et desideria pessima debemus accipere, sicut ne spiritum quidem aliquam rem substantialem, sed animae desideria bona et spiritalia designare. Quem sensum idem beatus apostolus superius euidenter expressit ita incipiens : dico autem, spiritu ambulate, et desideria carnis non perficietis, caro enim concupiscit aduersus spiritum, spiritus uero aduersus carnem : haec autem inuicem aduersantur sibi, ut non quaecumque uultis illa faciatis .

And since these two; viz., the desires of the flesh and of the spirit co-exist in one and the same man, there arises an internal warfare daily carried on within us, while the lust of the flesh which rushes blindly towards sin, revels in those delights which are connected with present ease. And on the other hand the desire of the spirit is opposed to these, and wishes to be entirely absorbed in spiritual efforts, so that it actually wants to be rid of even the necessary uses of the flesh, longing to be so constantly taken up with these things as to desire to have no share of anxiety about the weakness of the flesh. The flesh delights in wantonness and lust: the spirit does not even tolerate natural desires.

2. Quae cum utraque, id est desideria carnis et spiritus in uno eodemque sint homine, intestinum cotidie intra nos geritur bellum, dum concupiscentia carnis, quae praecipitanter fertur ad uitia, his quae ad praesentem requiem pertinent deliciis gaudet. Quibus e contra concupiscentia spiritus aduersata ita desiderat tota spiritalibus studiis inhaerere, ut etiam necessarios carnis usus optet excludere, sic illis iugiter cupiens occupari, ut nullam optaret fragilitati eius curam penitus inpertire. Caro luxuriis ac libidine delectatur, spiritus ne ipsis quidem naturalibus desideriis adquiescit.

The one wants to have plenty of sleep, and to be satiated with food: the other is nourished with vigils and fasting, so as to be unwilling even to admit of sleep and food for the needful purposes of life. The one longs to be enriched with plenty of everything, the other is satisfied even without the possession of a daily supply of scanty food. The one seeks to look sleek by means of baths, and to be surrounded every day by crowds of flatterers, the other delights in dirt and filth, and the solitude of the inaccessible desert, and dreads the approach of all mortal men. The one lives on the esteem and applause of men, the other glories in injuries offered to it, and in persecutions.

3. Illa cupit satiari somno, repleri cibo, hic ita uigiliis et ieiuniis saginatur, ut ne ad ipsum quidem necessarium uitae usum somnum cibumque uelit admittere. Illa uniuersis exuberare copiis concupiscit, hic ne ipsius quidem exigui panis cotidianam substantiam habere contentus est. Lauacris illa nitescere et cotidianis adulantium cuneis adpetit constipari, hic squalore sordium et inaccessibilis heremi uastitate congaudet cunctorumque mortalium praesentiam perhorrescit. Honoribus illa et laudibus hominum confouetur, hic inrogatis sibi iniuriis ac persecutionibus gloriatur.




What is our free will, which stands in between the lust of the flesh and the spirit.
CAPUT XII. Quae sit voluntas nostra, quae inter concupiscentiam carnis et spiritus ponitur.



BETWEEN these two desires then the free will of the soul stands in an intermediate position somewhat worthy of blame, and neither delights in the excesses of sin, nor acquiesces in the sorrows of virtue. Seeking to restrain itself from carnal passions in such a way as not nevertheless to be willing to undergo the requisite suffering, and wanting to secure bodily chastity without chastising the flesh, and to acquire purity of heart without the exertion of vigils, and to abound in spiritual virtues together with carnal ease, and to attain the grace of patience without the irritation of contradiction, and to practise the humility of Christ without the loss of worldly honour, to aim at the simplicity of religion in conjunction with worldly ambition, to serve Christ not without the praise and favour of men, to profess the strictness which truth demands without giving the slightest offence to anybody: in a word, it is anxious to pursue future blessings in such a way as not to lose present ones.

XII. Inter has igitur utrasque concupiscentias animae uoluntas in meditullio quodam uituperabiliore consistens nec uitiorum flagitiis oblectatur nec uirtutum doloribus adquiescit, sic quaerens a passionibus temperare carnalibus, ut nequaquam uelit dolores necessarios sustinere, sine quibus desideria spiritus nequeunt possideri, absque castigatione carnis castimoniam corporis desiderans obtinere, sine uigiliarum labore cordis adquirere puritatem cum requie carnis spiritalibus exuberare uirtutibus, absque ullius exasperatione conuicii patientiae gratiam possidere, humilitatem Christi sine honoris mundani exercere iactura, religionis simplicitatem cum saeculari ambitione sectari, Christo cum hominum laude ac fauore seruire, districtionem ueritatis sine cuiuspiam uel tenui offensione proferre : postremo sic mauult futura consequi bona, ut praesentia non amittat.

And this free will would never lead us to attain true perfection, but would plunge us into a most miserable condition of lukewarmness, and make us like those who are rebuked by the Lord’s remonstrance in the Apocalypse: “I know thy works, that thou art neither hot nor cold. I would that thou wert hot or cold. But now thou art lukewarm, and I will forthwith spue thee out of my mouth;” (Rev. 3:15, 16) were it not that these contentions which rise up on both sides disturb and destroy this condition of lukewarmness. For when we give in to this free will of ours and want to let ourselves go in the direction of this slackness, at once the desires of the flesh start up, and injure us with their sinful passions, and do not suffer us to continue in that state of purity in which we delight, and allure us to that cold and thorny path of pleasure which we have to dread.

2. Quae uoluntas numquam nos ad perfectionem ueram faceret peruenire, sed in tepore quodam deterrimo conlocaret talesque faceret, quales illi sunt qui in Apocalypsi increpatione domini castigantur : scio opera tua, quia neque frigidus es neque calidus. Utinam frigidus esses aut calidus. Nunc autem quia tepidus es, incipiam te euomere ex ore meo , nisi hunc tepidissimum statum altrinsecus haec insurgentia bella disrumperent. Nam cum famulantes huic uoluntati nostrae ad hanc remissionem uoluerimus nosmet ipsos paululum relaxare, confestim aculei carnis insurgunt suisque uos uitiis et passionibus sauciantes nequaquam in illa qua delectamur puritatis qualitate stare permittunt, atque ad illam quam horremus frigidam uoluptatum plenamque sentibus pertrahunt uiam.

Again, if inflamed with fervour of spirit, we want to root out the works of the flesh, and without any regard to human weakness try to raise ourselves altogether to excessive efforts after virtue, the frailty of the flesh comes in, and recalls us and restrains us from that over excess of spirit which is bad for us: and so the result is that as these two desires are contradicting each other in a struggle of this kind, the soul’s free will, which does not like either to give itself up entirely to carnal desires, nor to throw itself into the exertions which virtue calls for, is tempered as it were by a fair balance, while this struggle between the two hinders that more dangerous free will of the soul, and makes a sort of equitable balance in the scales of our body, which marks out the limits of flesh and spirit most accurately, and does not allow the mind inflamed with fervour of spirit to sway to the right hand, nor the flesh to incline through the pricks of sin, to the left.

3. Rursum si spiritus feruore succensi opera carnis uolentes extinguere sine ullo respectu fragilitatis humanae totos nosmet ipsos temptauerimus ad inmoderata uirtutum studia cordis elatione conferre, interpellans inbecillitas carnis ab illa reprehensibili nimietate spiritus reuocat ac retardat. Et ita fit up utraque concupiscentia tali conluctatione alterne sibimet repugnante animae uoluntas, quae nec totam se carnalibus desideriis dedere nec uirtutum uult laboribus desudare, quodammodo iusto moderamine temperetur, dum haec inter utraque contentio, illam perniciosiorem excludens animae uoluntatem, ut quandam aequitatis libram in statera nostri corporis conlocat, quae spiritus carnisque confinia iusto discernit examine, nec ac dextris mentem spiritus ardore succensam nec a laeua carnem uitiorum aculeis praeponderare permittens.

And while this struggle goes on day after day in us to our profit, we are driven most beneficially to come to that fourth stage which we do not like, so as to gain purity of heart not by ease and carelessness, but by constant efforts and contrition of spirit; to retain our chastity, of the flesh by prolonged fastings, hunger, thirst, and watchfulness; to acquire purpose of heart by reading, vigils, constant prayer and the wretchedness of solitude; to preserve patience by the endurance of tribulation; to serve our Maker in the midst of blasphemies and abounding insults; to follow after truth if need be amid the hatred of the world and its enmity; and while, with such a struggle going on in our body, we are secured from slothful carelessness, and incited to that effort which is against the gain, and to the desire for virtue, our proper balance is admirably secured, and on one side the languid choice of our free will is tempered by fervour of spirit,

4. Dumque haec pugna cotidianis diebus utiliter exagitatur in nobis, ad illud quartum quod nolumus salubriter uenire conpellimur, ut puritatem cordis non otio nec securitate, sed iugi sudore et contritione spiritus adquiramus castitatemque carnis districtis ieiuniis, fame, siti ac uigilantia retentemus, directionem etiam cordis lectione, uigiliis, oratione continua et solitudinis squalore capiamus, patientiam tribulationum exercitiis retentemus, cum blasphemiis et obprobriorum saturitate nostro seruiamus auctori, ueritatem cum inuidia mundi huius et inimicitiis, si necesse fuerit, exsequamur, et tali conluctatione in nostro corpore militante protractis nobis ab hac ignaua securitate atque ad istum quem nolumus laborem ac uirtutum studia prouocatis aequitas optime media retentetur,

and on the other the frigid coldness of the flesh is moderated by a gentle warmth, and while the desire of the spirit does not allow the mind to be dragged into unbridled licence, neither does the weakness of the flesh allow the spirit to be drawn on to unreasonable aspirations after holiness, lest in the one case incentives to all kinds of sins might arise, or in the other the earliest of all sins might lift its head and wound us with a yet more fatal dart of pride: but a due equilibrium will result from this struggle, and open to us a safe and secure path of virtue between the two, and teach the soldier of Christ ever to walk on the King’s highway.

5. et tepidum nostrae uoluntatis arbitrium hinc spiritus feruor, illinc carnis gelidissimus rigor moderatissimo calore contemperent, ac neque ad effrenata uitia mentem pertrahi concupiscentia spiritus sinat nec rursus ad uirtutum inrationabiles adpetitus fragilitas carnis spiritum patiatur extolli, ne uel inde omnigenum pullulent fomites uitiorum uel hinc elatio morbi principalis emergens telo nos superbiae grauiore confodiat, sed horum pugnae aequilibratio iusta succedens sanam et moderatam inter utraque uirtutum reseret uiam, itinere regio docens militem Christi semper incedere.

And thus the result will be that when, in consequence of the lukewarmness arising from this sluggish will of which we have spoken, the mind has been more easily entangled in carnal desires, it is checked by the desire of the spirit, which by no means acquiesces in earthly sins; and again, if through over much feeling our spirit has been carried in unbounded fervour and towards ill-considered and impossible heights, it is recalled by the weakness of the flesh to sounder considerations and rising above the lukewarm condition of our free will with due proportion and even course proceeds along the way of perfection.

6. Atque ita fiet, ut cum pro tepore huius quam diximus ignauissimae uoluntatis propensius mens ad desideria carnis fuerit deuoluta, spiritus concupiscentia refrenetur, nequaquam eo uitiis adquiescente terrenis, rursumque si inmoderato feruore per excessum cordis ad inpossibilia fuerit spiritus noster et inconsiderata praereptus, infirmitate carnis ad iustum retrahatur examen et transcendens uoluntatis nostrae tepidissimum statum commodissima temperie planoque tramite cum sudoris industria uiam perfectionis incedat.

Something of this sort we hear that the Lord ordained in the case of the building of that tower in the book of Genesis, where a confusion of tongues suddenly sprang up, and put a stop to the blasphemous and wicked attempts of men. For there would have remained there in opposition to God, aye and against the interest of those who had begun to assail His Divine Majesty, an agreement boding no good, unless by God’s providence the difference of languages, raising disturbances among them, had forced them because of the variations of their words to go on to a better condition, and a happy and valuable discord had recalled to salvation those whom a ruinous union had driven to destruction, as when divisions arose they began to experience human weakness of which when puffed up by their wicked plots they had hitherto known nothing.

7. Simile quid etiam in illius turris extructione legimus a domino dispensatum in libro Geneseos , ubi linguarum oborta repente confusio sacrilegos ausus hominum nefandosque conpescuit. Permanisset enim etiam ibi aduersus deum, immo aduersus eos qui diuinam eius adtemptare coeperant maiestatem consensus noxius, nisi eos dispensatione dei repugnans inter se diuersitas linguae per dissonantiam uocis in meliorem statum proficere conpulisset, et quos ad excidium sui animauerat perniciosa consensio, ad salutem reuocasset bona utilisque discordia, incipientes scilicet humanam fragilitatem intercedente diuisione sentire, quam per noxiam conspirationem elati antea nesciebant.




Of the advantage of the delay which results from the struggle between flesh and spirit
CAPUT XIII. De utilitate cunctationis quae ex colluctatione oritur carnis et spiritus.



BUT from the differences which this conflict causes, there arises a delay that is so far advantageous to us, and from this struggle an adjournment that is for our good, so that while through the resistance of the material body we are hindered from carrying out those things which we have wickedly conceived with our minds, we are sometimes recalled to a better mind either by penitence springing up, or by some better thoughts which usually come to us when delay in carrying out things, and time for reflection intervene.

XIII. In tantum uero utilis nobis ex huius pugnae diuersitate cunctatio nascitur et salutaris ex hac concertatione dilatio, ut resistente soliditate corporea, dum ab eorum effectu quae nequiter mente concepimus retardamur, nonnumquam in meliorem statum seu poenitudine subsequente seu emendatione quadam, quae solet procrastinatione operis et recogitatione interueniente descendere, corrigamur.

Lastly, those who, as we know, are not prevented from carrying out the desires of their free will by any hindrances of the flesh, I mean devils and spiritual wickednesses, these, since they have fallen from a higher and angelical state, we see are in a worse plight than men, in as much as (owing to the fact that opportunity is always present to gratify their desires) they are not delayed from irrevocably performing whatever evil they have imagined because as their mind is quick to conceive it, so their substance is ready and free to carry it out; and while a short and easy method is given them of doing what they wish, no salutary second thoughts come in to amend their wicked intention.

2. Denique hos quos intellegimus ad uoluntatum suarum desideria perficienda nullo carnis obstaculo retardari, daemones scilicet ac spiritales nequitias, et quidem cum sint de eminentiore angelorum ordine deuoluti, detestabiliores esse hominibus contemplamur, eo quod possibilitate eorum desideriis adiacente id quod nequiter semel conceperint inreuocabili malo perficere non morentur, quia sicut est animus eorum uelox ad excogitandum, sic ad perficiendum pernix et absoluta substantia, dumque subpeditat eis prona facilitas ea quae uoluerint peragendi, conceptum malum nulla intercedens deliberatio salutaris emendat.




Of the incurable depravity of spiritual wickednesses.
CAPUT XIV. De inemendabili malitia spiritalium nequitiarum.



FOR a spiritual substance and one that is not tied to any material flesh has no excuse for an evil thought which arises within, and also shuts out forgiveness for its sin, because it is not harassed as we are by incentives of the flesh without, to sin, but is simply inflamed by the fault of a perverse will. And therefore its sin is without forgiveness and its weakness without remedy. For as it falls through the allurements of no earthly matter, so it can find no pardon or place for repentance. And from this we can clearly gather that this struggle which arises in us of the flesh and spirit against each other is not merely harmless, but actually extremely useful to us.


XIIII. Spiritalis namque substantia nec ulla carnis soliditate deuincta ut excusationem exortae in sese prauae non recipit uoluntatis, ita ueniam malignitatis excludit, quia nulla quemadmodem nos ad peccandum inpugnatione carnis extrinsecus lacessita est, sed uitio solius malae uoluntatis accensa. Et ob hoc sine uenia peccatum et languor sine remedio est. Sicut enim nulla terrena sollicitante materia conruit, ita ne indulgentiam quidem aut locum potest poenitudinis obtinere. Quibus ex rebus euidenter colligitur, quod non solum noxia non sit haec quae contra se inuicem suscitatur in nobis carnis spiritusque contentio, uerum etiam multam nobis conferat utilitatem.




Of the value of the lust of the flesh against the spirit in our case.
CAPUT XV. Quid nobis prosit carnis adversus spiritum concupiscentia.



TO begin with, because it is an immediate reproof of our sloth and carelessness, and like some energetic schoolmaster who never allows us to deviate from the line of strict discipline, and if our carelessness has ever so little exceeded the limits of due gravity which become it, it immediately excites us by the stimulus of desire, and chides us and recalls us to due moderation. Secondly, because, in the matter of chastity and perfect purity, when by God’s grace we see that we have been for some time kept from carnal pollution, in order that we may not imagine that we can no longer be disturbed by the motions of the flesh and thereby be elated and puffed up in our secret hearts as if we no longer bore about the corruption of the flesh, it humbles and checks us, and reminds us by its pricks that we are but men.

XV. Primo quod desidias ac neglegentias nostras statim arguit et ut quidam diligentissimus paedagogus a districtionis et disciplinae linea numquam nos deuiare concedens, si paululum quid securitas nostra mensuram congruae serietatis excesserit, flagellis incentiuorum stimulat confestim et increpat atque ad conpetentem reuocat parcitatem. Secundo quod pro castimoniae ac puritatis integritate, cum dei gratia concedente ita nos longo tempore genitali pollutione uiderimus inmunes, ut ne ipsa quidem simplici conmotione carnis ulterius nos inquietandos esse credamus et per hoc, uelut qui non gestemus corruptelam carnis, in secretis conscientiae nostrae fuerimus elati, suo nos rursum quamuis quieto ac simplici uisitans fluxu humiliat ac retundit nosque homines esse stimulis suis admonet.

For as we ordinarily fall without much thought into other kinds of sins and those worse and more harmful, and are not so easily ashamed of committing them, so in this particular one the conscience is especially humbled, and by means of this illusion it is stung by the recollection of passions that have been neglected, as it sees clearly that it is rendered unclean by natural emotions, of which it knew nothing while it was still more unclean through spiritual sins; and so coming back at once to the cure of its former sluggishness, it is warned both that it ought not to trust in the attainments of purity in the past, which it sees to be lost by ever so small a falling away from the Lord, and also that it cannot attain the gift of this purity except by God’s grace alone, since actual experience somehow or other teaches us that if we are anxious to reach abiding perfection of heart we must constantly endeavour to obtain the virtue of humility.

2. Quodammodo enim, cum in ceteris generibus uitiorum et quidem grauioribus magisque noxiis indifferentius soleamus incurrere nec tam facile in eorum conpungamur admissu, in hoc peculiarius humiliatur conscientia nostra perque hanc inlusionem neglectarum quoque passionum recordatione mordetur, euidenter intellegens inmundam se factam naturalibus incentiuis, quae cum esset inmundior spiritalibus uitiis ignorabat, et recurrens protinus ad emendationem anterioris ignauiae commonetur pariter nec super successibus praeteritae puritatis debere confidere, quam se perspicit pusillum quid declinantem a domino perdidisse, nec posse huius purificationis donum nisi per solius dei gratiam possideri, docentibus nos quodammodo ipsius rei experimentis, ut si integritatem cordis perpetuo consequi delectamur, humilitatis studeamus uirtutem iugiter obtinere.




Of the excitements of the flesh, without the humiliation of  which we should fall more grievously.
CAPUT XVI. De incentivis carnis, quibus, nisi humiliaremur, gravius rueremus.



TO the fact then that the pride which results from this purity would be more dangerous than all sins and wickednesses, and that we should on that account gain no reward for any height of perfect chastity, we may call as witnesses those powers of which we spoke before, which since it is believed that they experience no such fleshly lusts, were cast down from their high and heavenly estate in everlasting destruction simply from pride of heart. And so we should be altogether hopelessly lukewarm, since we should have no warning of carelessness on our part implanted either in our body or in our mind, nor should we ever strive to reach the glow of perfection, or even keep to strict frugality and abstinence, were it not that this excitement of the flesh springs up and humbles us and baffles us and makes us keen and anxious about purifying ourselves from spiritual sins.

XVI. Huius igitur puritatis elationem perniciosiorem futuram cunctis sceleribus atque flagitiis et ob hanc nihil nos emolumenti consecuturos pro qualibet castitatis integritate testes sunt illae uirtutes quarum superius fecimus mentionem, quae cum nullas huiusmodi titillationes carnis habuisse credantur, ob solam cordis elationem perpetua ruina de illa sublimi caelestique statione deiectae sunt. Essemus itaque penitus absque remedio tepidi, utpote non habentes indicem neglegentiae nostrae uel in corpore nostro uel in conscientiis propriis insidentem, nec studeremus ad perfectionis umquam peruenire feruorem, sed ne frugalitatis quidem districtionem uel continentiae teneremus, nisi nos haec titillatio carnis increscens humiliaret atque retunderet et aduersus spiritalium quoque uitiorum purgationem sollicitos redderet et intentos.




Of the lukewarmness of eunuchs.
CAPUT XVII. De eunuchorum tepore



LASTLY, on this account in those who are Eunuchs, we often detect the existence of this lukewarmness of mind, because, as they are so to speak free from the needs of the flesh, they fancy that they have no need either of the trouble of bodily abstinence, or of contrition of heart; and being rendered slack by this freedom from anxiety, they make no efforts either truly to seek or to acquire perfection of heart or even purity from spiritual faults. And this condition which is the result of their state in the flesh, becomes natural, which is altogether a worse state. For he who passes from the state of coldness to that of lukewarmness is branded by the Lord’s words as still more hateful.

XVII. Denique in his qui spadones sunt corpore idcirco hunc animi teporem plerumque inesse deprehendimus, quia uelut absoluti ab hac necessitate carnali nec labore continentiae corporalis nec contritione cordis se existimant indigere, et hac securitate resoluti numquam perfectionem cordis, sed ne spiritalium quidem uitiorum purgationem uel quaerere in ueritate uel possidere festinant. Qui status a carnali qualitate discedens efficitur animalis, qui est procul dubio deterior gradus, ipse est enim qui de frigido ad tepidum transiens detestabilior domini uoce signatur.




The question what is the difference between the carnal and natural man.
CAPUT XVIII. Interrogatio quid intersit inter carnalem et animalem.



GERMANUS: You have, it seems to us, very clearly shown the value of the struggle which is raised between the flesh and spirit, so that we can believe that it can in a sort of way be grasped by us; and therefore we want to have this also explained to us in the same way; viz., what is the difference between the carnal and the natural man, or how the natural man can be worse than the carnal.

XVIII. GERMANVS : De utilitate conluctationis quae inter carnem ac spiritum suscitatur, quamtum uidetur nobis, euidenter expressum est, ita ut eam ipsis quodammodo manibus nostris palpabilem factam esse credamus. Et idcirco hanc quoque rationem nobis similiter cupimus aperiri, quid intersit inter carnalem et animalem uirum uel quemadmodum animalis carnali possit esse deterior.




The answer concerning the threefold condition of souls.
CAPUT XIX. De triplici animarum statu.



DANIEL: There are, according to the statements of Scripture, three kinds of souls; the first is the carnal, the second the natural, and the third the spiritual: which we find are thus described by the Apostle. For of the carnal he says: “I gave you milk to drink, not meat: for you were not able as yet. But neither indeed are you now able; for you are yet carnal.” And again: “For whereas there is among you envying and contention, are you not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:2, 3) Concerning the natural he also speaks as follows: “But the natural man perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him.” But concerning the spiritual: “But the spiritual man judgeth all things: and he himself is judged by no man.” (1 Cor. 2:14, 15) And again “You who are spiritual instruct such ones in the spirit of meekness.” (Gal. 6:1)

XVIIII. DANIHEL : Secundum definitionem scripturae tres sunt animarum status, primus carnalis, secundus animalis, tertius spiritalis. Quos in apostolo ita legimus designari. Nam de carnalibus dicitur : lac uobis potum dedi, non escam : necdum enim poteratis. Sed nec adhuc quidem potestis : adhuc enim estis carnales , et iterum : ubi enim est inter uos zelus et contentio, nonne carnales estis ? De animali quoque taliter commemoratur : animalis autem homo non percipit ea quae sunt spiritus dei : stultitia est enim illi . De spiritali uero : spiritalis autem examinat omnia, ipse autem a nemine diiudicatur , et iterum : uos qui spiritales estis instruite eos qui eiusmodi sunt in spiritu lenitatis .

And so, though at our renunciation we ceased to be carnal, i.e., we began to separate ourselves from intercourse with those in the world, and to have nothing to do with open pollution of the flesh, we must still be careful to strive with all our might to attain forthwith a spiritual condition, lest haply we flatter ourselves because we seem as far as the outer man is concerned to have renounced this world and got rid of the defilement of carnal fornication, as if by this we had reached the heights of perfection; and thence become careless and indifferent about purifying ourselves from other affections, and so being kept back between these two, become unable to reach the stage of spiritual advancement; either because we think that it is amply sufficient for our perfection if we seem to separate ourselves, as regards the outward man, from intercourse with this world and from its pleasure, or because we are free from corruption and carnal intercourse, and thus we find ourselves in that lukewarm condition which is considered the worst of all, and discover that we are spued out of the mouth of the Lord, in accordance with these words of His: “I would that thou wert hot or cold. But now thou art lukewarm and I will begin to spue thee out of My mouth.” (Rev. 3:15, 16)

2.Itaque festinandum nobis est, ut cum renuntiantes desierimus esse carnales, id est a saecularium coeperimus conuersatione seiungi et ab illa manifesta carnis pollutione cessare, spiritalem statum protinus adprehendere tota uirtute nitamur, ne forte blandientes nobis, quod uidemur secundum exteriorem hominem huic renuntiasse mundo uel carnalium fornicationum deseruisse contagia, tamquam qui summam perfectionis per hoc adprehenderimus, remissiores deinceps erga emundationem ceterarum passionum lentioresque reddamur et inter utraque detenti gradum spiritalis profectus adsequi nequeamus, existimantes ad perfectionem nobis abunde sufficere, quod exteriore homine uideamur de conuersatione mundi huius ac uoluptatibus segregati, uel quod inmunes simus a corruptela et conmixtione carnali, et ita inuenti in illo tepido statu, qui deterrimus iudicatur, euomendos nos ex ore domini secundum eius sententiam nouerimus ita dicentis : utinam calidus esses aut frigidus. Nunc autem tepidus es, et incipiam te euomere ex ore meo .

And not without good reason does the Lord declare that those whom he has previously received in the bowels of His love, and who have become shamefully lukewarm, shall be spued out and rejected from His bosom: in as much as, though they might have yielded Him some health-giving subsistence, they preferred to be torn away from His heart: thus becoming far worse than those who had never found their way into the Lord’s mouth as food, just as we turn away with loathing from that which nausea compels us to bring up. For whatever is cold is warmed when received into the mouth and is received with satisfaction and good results. But whatever has been once rejected owing to its miserable lukewarmness, we cannot--I will not say touch with the lips--but even look on from a distance without the greatest disgust.

3. Nec inmerito eos dominus, quos iam in uisceribus receperat caritatis, noxie tepefactos cum quadam conuulsione pectoris sui euomendos esse pronuntiat, qui cum salutarem quodammodo ei potuissent praebere substantiam, auelli ab eius uisceribus maluerunt, tanto deteriores effecti illis qui numquam ori dominico inlati sunt cibis, quanto id quod nausea conpellente proicimus odibilius detestamur. Quidquid enim frigidum est, etiam ore nostro susceptum uertitur in calorem et salutifera suauitate percipitur. Quod autem semel uitio perniciosi teporis abiectum est, non dicam labiis admouere, sed etiam eminus intueri sine ingenti horrore non possumus.

Rightly then is he said to be worse, because the carnal man, i.e., the worldly man and the heathen, is more readily brought to saving conversion and to the heights of perfection than one who has been professed as a monk, but has not, as his rule directs, laid hold on the way of perfection, and so has once for all drawn back from that fire of spiritual fervour. For the former is at last broken down by the sins of the flesh, and acknowledges his uncleanness, and in his compunction hastens from carnal pollution to the fountain of true cleansing, and the heights of perfection, and in his horror at that cold state of infidelity in which he finds himself, he is kindled with the fire of the spirit and flies the more readily to perfection.

4. Rectissime ergo pronuntiatur esse deterior, quia facilius ad salutarem conuersionem ac perfectionis fastigium carnalis quis, id est saecularis uel gentilis accedit, quam is qui professus monachum nec tamen uiam perfectionis adripiens secundum regulam disciplinae ab illo semel spiritalis feruoris igne discessit. Ille namque corporalibus saltim uitiis humiliatus atque inmundum ac sentiens contagione carnali ad fontem uerae purificationis ac perfectionis culmen quandoque conpunctus adcurret et horrescens illum in quo est infidelitatis gelidissimum statum spiritus ardore succensus ad perfectionem facilius conuolabit.

For one who has, as we said, once started with a lukewarm beginning, and has begun to abuse the name of monk, and who has not laid hold on the way of this profession with the humility and fervour that he ought, when once he is infected by this miserable plague, and is as it were unstrung by it, can no longer of himself discern what is perfect nor learn from the admonitions of another. For he says in his heart that which the Lord tells us: “Because I am rich and wealthy and want nothing;”

5. Nam qui semel ut diximus tepido exorsus initio monachi coepit abuti uocabulo, nec tamen humilitate ac feruore quo debuit iter huius professionis adripuit, infectus semel hac miserabili lue et in ea quodammodo resolutus nec ex sese ulterius perfecta sapere nec alterius poterit monitis erudiri. Dicit enim in corde suo secundum illam domini sententiam : quia diues sum et locuples et nullius egeo .

and so this which follows is at once applied to him: “But thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Rev. 3:17) and he is so far in a worse condition than a worldly man, because he has no idea that he is wretched or blind or naked or requires cleansing, or needs to be directed and taught by any one; and on this account he receives no sound advice as he does not realise that he is weighted with the name of monk, and is lowered in the judgment of all, whereas, though everybody believes him to be a saint and regards him as a servant of God, he must hereafter be subjected to a stricter judgment and punishment.

6. Cui illud quoque quod subsequitur consequenter aptabitur : tu autem es miser et miserabilis et pauper et caecus et nudus : in eo factus etiam saeculari deterior, quod nec miserum se nec caecum ac nudum aut emendatione dignum uel egere monitis alicuius aut institutione cognoscit et ob hoc ne exhortationem quidem ullam uerbi salutaris admittit, non intellegens ipso monachi se nomine praegrauari ac deprimi opinione cunctorum, qua dum creditur ab omnibus sanctus et uelut dei famulus colitur, necesse est ut in futuro uehementiori iudicio poenaeque subdatur.

Lastly, why should we any longer linger over those things which we have sufficiently discovered and proved by experience? We have often seen those who were cold and carnal, i.e., worldly men and heathen, attain spiritual warmth: but lukewarm and “natural” men never. And these too we read in the prophet are hated of the Lord, so that a charge is given to spiritual and learned men to desist from warning and teaching them, and not to sow the seed of the life-giving word in ground that is barren and unfruitful and choked by noxious thorns; but that they should scorn this, and rather cultivate fallow ground, i.e., that they should transfer all their care and teaching, and their zeal in the life-giving word to pagans and worldly men: as we thus read: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” (Jer. 4:3)

7. Postremo quid diutius inmoramur in his quae nobis experimento satis conperta sunt ac probata? Frequenter uidimus de frigidis atque carnalibus, id est de saecularibus ac paganis ad spiritalem peruenisse feruorem, de tepidis atque animalibus omnino non uidimus. Quos etiam per prophetam ita legimus dominum detestari, ut spiritalibus uiris atque doctoribus praecipiatur, ut ab eis monendis docendisque discedant et nequaquam uelut in sterili atque infructuosa terra noxiisque sentibus occupata semen uerbi salutaris expendant, sed ut contemnentes eam nouam potius excolant terram, id est erga paganos ac saeculares omnem doctrinae culturam ac uerbi transferant salutaris instantiam, quod ita legitur : haec dicit dominus uiro Iuda, et habitatori Hierusalem : nouate uobis nouale, et nolite serere super spinas .



Of those who renounce the world but ill.
CAPUT XX. De male abrenuntiantibus.



IN the last place I am ashamed to say how we find that a large number have made their renunciation in such a way that we find that they have altered nothing of their former sins and habits, but only their state of life and worldly garb. For they are eager in amassing wealth which they never had before, or else do not give up that which they had, or which is still sadder, they actually strive to augment it under this excuse; viz., that they assert that it is right that they should always support with it their relations or the brethren, or they hoard it under pretence of starting congregations which they imagine that they can preside over as Abbots.

XX. Denique, quod pudet dicere, ita plerosque abrenuntiasse conspicimus, ut nihil amplius inmutasse de anterioribus uitiis ac moribus conprobentur nisi ordinem tantummodo atque habitum saecularem. Nam et adquirere pecunias gestiunt quas nec ante possederunt, uel certe quas habuerant retinere non desinunt aut, quod est lugubrius, etiam amplificare desiderant sub hoc praetextu, quod uel famulos suos exinde semper uel fratres alere se debere iustum esse contendant, uel certe sub obtentu congregandi coetus reseruant, quem uelut abbates instituere se posse praesumunt.

But if only they would sincerely seek after the way of perfection, they would rather endeavour with all their might and main to attain to this: viz., that they might strip themselves not only of their wealth but of all their former likings and occupations, and place themselves unreservedly and entirely under the guidance of the Elders so as to have no anxiety not merely about others, but even about themselves. But on the contrary we find that while they are eager to be set over their brethren, they are never subject to their Elders themselves, and, with pride for their starting point, while they are quite ready to teach others they take no trouble to learn themselves or to practise what they are to teach: and so it is sure to end in their becoming, as the Saviour said, “blind leaders of the blind” so that “both fall into the ditch.” (Cf. Matt. 15:14)

2. Qui si in ueritate uiam perfectionis inquirerent, hoc potius tota uirtute perficere niterentur, ut scilicet exuti non solum pecuniis, uerum etiam affectionibus pristinis et distentionibus uniuersis semet ipsos singulares ac nudos ita sub seniorum imperio conlocarent, ut curam non modo aliorum nullam, sed ne sui quidem gererent. E contrario autem euenit, ut dum fratribus praeesse festinant numquam senioribus ipsi subiciantur et a superbia inchoantes, dum alios instituere cupiunt, nec discere ipsi nec agere ea quae sunt docenda mereantur : qui necesse est ut secundum saluatoris sententiam caeci duces caecorum effecti pariter in foueam cadant .

And this pride though there is only one kind of it, yet takes a twofold form. One form continually puts on the appearance of seriousness and gravity, the other breaks out with unbridled freedom into silly giggling and laughing. The former delights in not talking: the latter thinks it hard to be kept to the restraint of silence, and has no scruples about talking freely on matters that are unsuitable and foolish, while it is ashamed to be thought inferior to or less well informed than others. The one on account of pride seeks clerical office, the other looks down upon it, since it fancies that it is unsuitable or beneath its former dignity and life and the deserts of its birth. And which of these two should be accounted the worse each man must consider and decide for himself.

3. Cuius superbiae licet unum sit genus, duplex tamen eius est species : una quae serietatem grauitatemque iugiter imitatur, alia quae effrenata libertate in cachinnos fatuos risusque dissoluitur. Et illa quidem taciturnitate congaudet, haec uero dedignatur silentio coartari nec confunditur passim proloqui etiam res incongruas et ineptas, dum erubescit uel inferior ceteris uel indoctior iudicari. Alia ob elationem clericatus ambit officium, altera despicit, utpote iudicans illud aut dignitati pristinae aut uitae ac natalium suorum meritis incongruum uel indignum. Quarum quae deterior pronuntianda sit, uniuscuiusque discutiat ac perpendat examen.

At any rate the kind of disobedience is one and the same, if a man breaks the Elder’s commands whether it be owing to zeal in work, or to love of ease: and it is as hurtful to upset the rules of the monastery for the sake of sleep, as it is for the sake of vigilance, and it is just the same to transgress the Abbot’s orders in order to read, as it is to slight them in order to sleep: nor is there any difference in the incentive to pride if you neglect a brother, whether it is because of your fast or because of your breakfast: except that those faults which seem to show themselves under the guise of virtues and in the form of spirituality are worse and less likely to be cured than those which arise openly and from carnal pleasures. For these latter, like sicknesses which are perfectly plain and visible, are grappled with and cured, while the former, since they are covered under the cloak of virtue, remain uncured, and cause their victims to fall into a more dangerous and deadly state of ill health.

4. Unum sane atque idem inoboedientiae genus est uel propter operationis instantiam uel propter otii desiderium senioris uiolare mandatum, tamque dispendiosum est pro somno quam pro uigilantia monasterii statuta conuellere, tantundemque est abbatis transire praeceptum ut legas, quantum si contemnas ut dormias, nec alius superbiae fomes est pro ieiunio fratrem quam pro refectione neglegere, nisi quod perniciosiora et a remediis longinquiora sunt uitia quae sub specie uirtutum et imagine spiritalium rerum uidentur emergere, quam illa quae ex aperto pro carnali uoluptate gignuntur. Haec enim uelut palam expositi ac manifesti languores et arguuntur comminus et sanantur, illa uero, dum sub praetextu uirtutum teguntur, incurata perdurant et deceptos quosque periculosius faciunt ac desperatius aegrotare.



Of those who having made light of great things busy themselves about trifles.
CAPUT XXI. De his qui, contemptis magnis, occupantur in parvis.



FOR how can we show how absurd it is that we see that some men after their first enthusiasm of renunciation in which they forsook their estates and vast wealth and the service of the world, and betook themselves to the monasteries, are still earnestly devoted to those things which cannot altogether be cut off, and which we cannot do without in this state of life, even though they are small and trifling things; so that in their case the anxiety about these trifles is greater than their love of all their property. And it certainly will not profit them much that they have disregarded greater riches and property, if they have only transferred their affections (on account of which they were to make light of them) to small and trifling things.

XXI. Nam illud ridiculum qualiter expromatur, quod nonnullos post illum primae renuntiationis ardorem, quo uel res familiares uel opes plurimas ac militiam saeculi relinquentes semet ipsos ad monasteria contulerunt, tanto cernimus studio in his, quae penitus abscidi non possunt et quae nequeunt in hoc ordine non haberi, quamuis parua uiliaque sint, esse deuinctos, ut horum cura pristinarum omnium facultatum superet passionem. Quibus profecto non magne proderit maiores opes ac substantias contempsisse, quia affectus earum, ob quos illae contemnendae sunt, in res paruas atque exiguas transtulerunt.

For the sin of covetousness and avarice of which they cannot be guilty in the matter of really valuable things, they retain with regard to commoner matters, and so show that they have not got rid of their former greed but only changed its object. For if they are too careful about their mats, baskets, blankets, books, and other trifles such as these, the same passion holds them captive as before. And they actually guard and defend their rights over them so jealously as to get angry with their brethren about them, and, what is worse, they are not ashamed to quarrel over them.

2. Nam uitium cupiditatis et auaritiae, quod erga species pretiosas exercere non possunt, circa uiliores materias retinentes non abscidisse, sed conmutasse se probant pristinam passionem. Nam nimia deuincti diligentia erga curam psiathii, sportellae, sagelli, codicis aliarumque similium rerum quamuis uilissimarum eadem tamen qua antea libidine detinentur. Quae etiam tanta aemulatione custodiunt atque defendunt, ut pro ipsis aduersus fratrem conmoueri eos et quod est turpius etiam litigare non pudeat.

And being still troubled by the bad effects of their former covetousness, they are not content to possess those things which the needs and requirements of the body compel a monk to have, according to the common number and measure, but here too they show the greediness of their heart, as they try to have those things which they are obliged to use, better got up than the others; or, exceeding all due bounds, keep as their special and peculiar property and guard from the touch of others that which ought to belong to all the brethren alike.

3. In quibus adhuc aegritudine cupiditatis pristinae laborantes haec eadem, quae usus corporis possidere monachum uel necessitas cogit, secundum numerum mensuramque communem non sunt habere contenti, in hoc quoque sui cordis auaritiam designantes, cum uel ea quibus uti necesse est propensius student habere quam ceteri, uel excedentes diligentiae modum peculiarius ea adtentiusque custodiunt et ab aliorum contrectatione defendunt, quae uniuersis fratribus debent esse communia.

As if the difference of metals, and not the passion of covetousness was what mattered; and as if it was wrong to be angry about big things, while one might innocently be about trifling matters: and as if we had not given up all our precious things just in order that we might learn more readily to think nothing about trifles! For what difference does it make whether one gives way to covetousness in the matter of large and splendid things, or in the matter of the merest trifles, except that we ought to think a man so far worse if he has made light of great things and then is a slave to little things? And so that sort of renunciation of the world does not attain perfection of heart, because though it ranks as poverty it still keeps the mind of wealth.

4. Quasi uero differentia tantummodo metallorum et non ipsa passio cupiditatis habeatur in noxa, et pro rebus quidem magnis irasci non liceat, pro uilioribus uero hoc ipsum fecisse sine culpa sit, et non idcirco pretiosiores abiecerimus materias, ut facilius disceremus uiliora contemnere. Quid enim differt utrum quis perturbationem cupiditatis erga opes amplas atque magnificas an erga uiliores exerceat species, nisi quod in eo reprehensibilior iudicandus est, quod qui maxima spreuerit minimis obligetur? Ideoque perfectionem cordis abrenuntiatio ista non obtinet, quia cum censum habeat pauperis, non abiecit diuitis uoluntatem.

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