An Excerpt from"The Path To Salvation"
Attacking the consciousness or free will, one or another such feeling either completely cuts off or cuts short the flow of our spiritual life and places us in extreme danger. This is when outside help is extremely necessary. Sometimes the person himself is not aware of these tempting movements, for they belong to the ranks of subtle thought processes. Passions of the soul and body are more obvious and crude, although there are also subtle ones amongst them, such as comfort of the body, or opinion and criticism. In word they are understood, but in deed they are often hidden.
This is the horde that is ready every minute to extinguish our new life opposed to sin. Man walks the earth of his existence as along a quagmire, ready to fall in at any moment. When you walk, walk carefully, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Incidentally, being within, under the cover of new rules and a new order and with activity of spirit, all of these unrighteous movements would not be so pernicious if they were not aided by their neighboring parents — the world and the demons.
The world is the manifestation of the world of passions, the live passions in individuals, customs and deeds. Coming into contact with one part or another of the world, it is impossible not to exacerbate your own inner wounds or passions due to their similitude and accord with it. That is why everyone who lives in the world is drawn to it because of the passions living within him, according to his motivations and temptations.
But there is a certain arousal that particularly belongs to the world. It consists in its charming appearance and progress, its power to awe — the feeling of abandonment and desertedness in the midst of a crowd; in everything — obstacles, caustic remarks, ridicule, contempt, inattentiveness, the torment of iniquitous deeds. This is followed by oppression, persecution, wrath, deprivation, and all manner of sorrows.
The demons, as the source of all evil, surround people with their horde and teach them every sin, working through the flesh, especially the senses and that element where the soul and the demons themselves live. That is why they can be considered the cause of every passion and sinful attack. But there is something in this cycle of sins that only the demons could whip up — something of which nature is incapable despite all its corruption. That is blasphemous thoughts — doubts, lack of faith, unusual revulsion, darkening of the mind, various forms of prelest, and in general, passionate temptations that take over; for example: uncontrollable sexual passions, stubborn hatred to the death, and so on. Besides these invisible struggles from demons, there is also a visible attack from them that is sensed through the body: these are various kinds of specters, that even go to the extent of taking authority over the body. To learn more about the deceit of the demons it is useful to read the lives of Sts. Niphon, Spyridon and others.
This is everything that attacks the new man from within and from without. Those who are attentive say a minute does not pass without one of these movements striking. This is inevitable; for we see how the inward-looking individual who is zealous for good is surrounded on all sides by enemy forces. He is sunk in them as in a sea. Incidentally, in order to succeed in battle one needs not only to see this host of enemies, but also to know what form these attacks take.
Let us imagine where the face of a man is at conversion. It is inside, in another world; it exists and acts in another way. He has spiritual subjects on his mind and spiritual deeds in his intentions. It means that he has left the passionate and sinful. When later beneficial order and rules are developed, it can be seen that he stands entirely in the realm of spiritual light, he is holy. The sinful and passionate are estranged from his attention and are covered by rules. They speak out on rare occasions, then again run away, occupying or not occupying the attention. They only show themselves to the inner eye, remind us of themselves; wanting only that we occupy ourselves with them, think about them, contemplate them.
Therefore the chief form in which the enemy appears in us is thought. When the enemy succeeds in occupying our mind with blasphemous thoughts, he is already not without profit. He can often even celebrate a victory, because desire can soon lean towards the thought; and after desire comes resolve to do the thing — and this is already sin and a fall. On this basis the Holy Fathers, attentive to themselves, to the forms and degrees of passionate attacks and attraction to them, notice the following: the onrush of thoughts, contemplation, delight in it, desire, passion, attraction, resolve, and then the deed. This process sometimes happens gradually, one step after another, and sometimes each stage comes separately and out of order, with the exception of resolve, which always is a direct act preceded by contemplation and the inclination of free will. Until this happens purity is intact and the conscience is clean.
Therefore all of the preliminary acts can be defined by one word — thought. It can be simple or with an added simple, passionate, lustful thought; because it appears in us either as a simple thought, the imagination only of a sinful object, or as lust, craving or desire, or finally, as a passion or attraction. All of these entice and tempt the mind or spirit to something passionate and sinful. But this is not evil, not sin, as long as the mind has not joined its will to them, as long as it wars with them each time they arise until they are expelled.