now, my beloved, that the devil cares only for surrounding you and every one of us all about with ruin. Yet he does not use one and the same method of warfare against us all [and we are generally clueless to his presence and his devices against us]. So to help you see and understand this more clearly, I shall inform you of five inner states of people and the corresponding disarming and seductive devices, circuitous approaches, and enticements of the enemy. [For you must remember that your enemy needs no sleep and is thus ever about his dark business]. The [first two states] are the following: some people remain in the slavery of sin, with no thought of liberation; [those in the second state], although thinking of this liberation and desiring it, do nothing to achieve it. [But the third state] are those who, having been freed from the shackles of sin and having acquired virtues, again fall into sin with still greater corruption.
[So let us] suppose that a man has overcome the first two obstacles, is filled with the desire to be free of the bondage of sin and has begun to work for it without delay. Even here the enemy does not leave him alone. The enemy changes only his tactics, but not his evil intent and longing to make man stumble against some stone of temptation and so bring him to complete ruin. The holy fathers describe such a man as being under fire from all sides: -- from above and below, from left and right, from front and rear, from everywhere arrows speed towards him. Arrows from above are suggestions for excessive spiritual works, above his powers; arrows from below are suggestions to reduce or even to completely abandon such works through self-pity, negligence and heedlessness; arrows from the right are when, in connection with some right undertakings and works, the enemies lead a man into temptation and the danger of downfall; arrows from the left are when the enemies present concrete temptations and draw a man towards sin; arrows from the front are when the enemies tempt and disturb a man by thoughts of what is to come; arrows from the rear are when they tempt him with memories of past deeds and events. And all these tempting thoughts attack the soul, either inwardly or outwardly: inwardly, through images and pictures of fantasy, mentally imprinted in the consciousness, or through direct evil suggestions planted in the heart, accompanied by habitual impulses of passion; outwardly – through the impressions received by the external senses in a ceaseless flow, as we have already said. Moreover our enemies have allies in our former sinful habits and our nature corrupted by the fall of man. Having so many means to harm us, the enemy is never daunted by the first failures and constantly puts into use now one, now another means of tripping or leading astray the servant of Christ, who eludes his power.
After a man has decided to abandon his wrong ways and actually does abandon them, the first task of the enemy is to clear a space for an unhampered field of action against him. He succeeds in this by suggesting to a man, who has entered the right path, that he should act on his own, and not go for advice and guidance to the teachers of the righteous life, who are always attached to the Church... So you can see for yourself how important it is for you to do everything with advice, never to ascribe any successes, however small, to yourself, to your own powers and your own zeal, to avoid all excesses and indulgences and to lead a life which, though even, is energetic and alive, always following the order and rule once established by the example of the saints, who lived before you, and by the good judgment of experienced men, who are your contemporaries.
O O O
Unseen Warfare, edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by St. Theophan the Recluse.