For the most part, the word of God depicts the sinner, who is faced with the necessity of renewal in repentance,as being submerged in deep slumber. The distinguishing characteristic of such people is not always outright depravity, but rather the absence in the strictest sense of inspired, selfless zeal for pleasing God, together with a decided aversion for everything sinful. Devotion is not the main concern of their cares and labors; they are attentive about many other things, but are completely indifferent to their salvation, and do not sense what danger they are in. They neglect the good life and lead a life that is cold in faith, though it be occasionally righteous and outwardly irreproachable.
That is the general characteristic. Here are the particulars for a person who lacks grace: Once he has turned away from God, the person dwells on himself, and makes self the main goal of his life and activity. This is because at this point, after God, there is for him nothing higher than self, especially because, having previously received every abundance from God and having now forgotten Him, he hurries and takes care to fill himself up with something. The emptiness that has formed inside him because of his falling away from God causes an unquenchable thirst inside him that is vague but constant. The person has become a bottomless abyss. He makes every effort to fill this abyss, but he cannot see or feel it getting full. Thus, he spends his entire life in sweat, toil and great labors; he busies himself with various occupations in which he hopes to find a way to quench his unquenchable thirst. These occupations take up all his attention, all his time and all his activity. They are the highest good, in which he lives with his whole heart. Thus, it is clear why a person who makes self his exclusive goal is never himself; instead, everything is outside him, in things either created or acquired by vanity. He has fallen away from God, Who is the fullness of everything. He himself is empty; it remains for him to seemingly pour himself out into an endless variety of things and live in them. Thus, the sinner thirsts, fusses, and troubles himself with occupations and numerous things outside himself and God. This is why a characteristic trait of sinful life is, in its disregard for salvation, the care and trouble about many things (cf. Lk 10:41).
The nuances and distinctions of this care and trouble about many things depends on the kinds of emptiness that have formed in the soul. There is the emptiness of the mind that has forgotten the One Who is everything; this gives rise to care and trouble about learnedness, inquisitiveness, questioning and curiosity. There is the emptiness of the will that has been deprived of possession by the One Who is everything; this creates desire for many things, the longing to possess many things, so that everything is in our control, in our hands; this is self-interest. There is the emptiness of the heart that has been deprived of the enjoyment of the One Who is everything; this forms a thirst for the satisfaction of many and various things, or a search for an infinite number of objects in which we hope to find pleasure for our senses, both internal and external. Thus, the sinner is continually troubled about learnedness, the possession of many things, and the desire for many pleasures. He amuses himself, he possesses, he questions. He goes around in circles his entire life. Curiosity beckons, the heart hopes to taste sweet things, and he is enticed by the will. Anyone can convince himself of this if he observes the movements of his soul over the course of only a single day.
If left alone, the sinner will continue going in circles, because this is our nature when it is enslaved to sin. However, when the sinner is in the company of others, the circles he goes around increase in number a thousandfold and become more convoluted. There is an entire world full of people who are continually doing things, questioning, amusing themselves, and scrounging about, whose every way in all of this has led to a system, placed everyone under its laws, and made these laws a necessity for everyone who belongs to this sphere. In this common alliance, they inevitably come into contact, rub up against each other, and in this rubbing succeed in elevating inquisitiveness, self-interest, and self-pleasure to the tenth, hundredth and thousandth degree, thereby placing all happiness, joy and life in this frenzy. This is the world of vanity, in which occupations, ways, rule, connections, language, diversions, amusements, concepts — everything, from the smallest to the greatest thing — are permeated by the spirit of these three fiends of many cares and trouble mentioned above. It is what constitutes the dreary going around in circles by the spirits of worldly people. Being in living communion with this entire world, each sinner is caught up in its thousandfold net, and is so deeply entangled in it that it is invisible to him. Such a heavy burden lies on each worldly person and each of his parts, that he does not have the strength to be stirred in the smallest way by anything that is not worldly, because this would seem like raising a thousand-pound weight to him. Thus, no one undertakes such an unmanageable task, and no one thinks to undertake it; instead, everyone lives on, moving in the rut into which they have fallen.
Even worse is the prince of this world who is unparalleled in his cunning, spitefulness and experience in seduction. It is through the flesh and materialism with which the soul became mingled at the fall that he has free access to the soul. In his approach, he kindles curiosity, self-interest, and pleasure-loving self-comfort in various ways. Through various enticements, he holds the soul in these things with no escape; through various suggestions he suggests plans for satisfying them and then either aids in fulfilling them, or thwarts them through instruction of other more ambitious plans. All this is accomplished with one purpose: to prolong and deepen a person's involvement in them. This is what constitutes the change of worldly misfortune and fortune, unblessed by God.
The prince of this world has an entire horde of servile spirits of malice that are subordinate to him. At each instant they scurry along every boundary of the inhabited world to sow various things in different places, deepen entanglement in the net of sin, repair traps that have become weak and broken, and especially to guard against anyone who might take it into his mind to rid himself of his bonds and escape to freedom. In the latter case, they hurriedly gather around the self-willed person. First they come one by one, then by detachments and legions until finally, the entire horde is there. This happens in various ways and forms so as to block all exits and mend the strands and nets, and, using the other analogy, to push back into the abyss any person who has begun to crawl out along its steep slopes.
This invisible kingdom of spirits has special places. There are the throne rooms, where plans are drawn up, instructions arrive and reports are received with the approval or reproaches of the chiefs. These are the inner sanctums of satan, as St. John the Theologian expressed it. On earth, in the middle kingdom of people, there are leagues of evil-doers, profligates, and especially nonbelievers and blasphemers, whose deeds, words and writings pour out sinful gloom everywhere and block out the divine light. The aggregate of worldly ways, pervaded with sinful elements that stupefy and draw one away from God, is the organ through which they express their will and power here.
This is the structure of the sinful sphere! Each sinner is immersed in it, but is kept there largely on account of some particular thing. This thing, perhaps, is in appearance tolerable, even laudable. Satan has a single concern; that is, where a person is completely occupied in his consciousness, attention, and heart, that God not be the sole occupier, but that something outside Him be attached to his mind, will, and heart, so the person has something in place of God and only cares about what he knows and what he enjoys and possesses. Here there are not only carnal and mental passions, but also specious things such as learnedness, artistry, and worldliness that can serve as the bonds of satan for keeping blinded sinners in his power and not allowing them to come to their senses.
If one looks at the sinner in his inner mood and condition, it happens sometimes that he is knowledgeable, but is blind with regard to divine things and the matter of his own salvation. Even if he constantly takes care and troubles over things, he is idle and careless in regard to arranging his own salvation; even if he continually experiences anxieties or pleasures of the heart, he is completely insensitive to everything spiritual. In this regard, all forces of being are afflicted by sin; and there is blindness, negligence and insensitivity in the sinner. He does not see his own condition, and therefore does not sense the danger of his situation. He does not sense his danger and therefore does not take the trouble and care to be delivered from it. The necessity to change and be saved does not even enter his mind. He has complete, unshakable confidence that he is at his proper station in life, wants for nothing and must therefore leave everything the way it is. Therefore, he considers any reminder about another kind of life to be superfluous for himself; he does not listen, and cannot even understand what it is for. He avoids and shuns it.
Excerpts From "The Path To Salvation"
A Manual Of Transformation By
Saint Theophan The Recluse