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Illnesses of the Soul

article fr lourie Jul 01, 2021

From The Mountain of Silence,

By Kyriacos C. Markides


1. Ignorance-not a lack of worldly knowledge but a lack of God knowledge. The heart (nous) is ignorant of God. This lack of direct knowledge of God renders human beings incapable of knowing what it means to live apart from God. Consequently, they are not conscious of how abysmal their deprivation and predicament is. (page 53)

Knowledge of God is not gained through books on theology and dogma. Knowledge of God can only be attained through long and arduous spiritual practices.

2. Forgetfulness-the heart does not remember God. It forgot how to be in a prayerful state. The natural state of a human being is a continuous contemplation and memory of God. Not a cerebral memory of God but a memory that works from within the heart (nous). (page 55)

The mind is a form of energy, it is natural that whatever we do we do by employing the mind. The mind is at work. For those who engage in spiritual askesis (exercise), however, the most important center of the heart, (the nous) is also at work.

So, while the mind is focused on an activity, the heart/nous is doing something else simultaneously. The nous is attached to God, lives with God, functions in God, and is joyous with the presence of God while the praying persons are absorbed in activities. They may even be asleep but the nous functions in God.

The method of the Athonite spiritual tradition for attaining that state is to learn to say the Efche, the Jesus Prayer, continuously.

It is the practical way of mobilizing the heart to open up to Grace. (page 56)

It opens the road for Grace to visit the heart. And when that happens, then the nous works by itself independently of whatever else you do. It enters into an ongoing relationship with God.

Based on the testament and cumulative experience of the saints and great elders, continuous prayer is the key to the purification of the heart and its opening to the gifts of the Holy Spirit to Grace. (page 57)

3. Hardness or toughness of heart-A person my fervently desire to listen to the word of God, to desire union with God, to come in contact with wisdom that comes from God, but the heart is impenetrable. The Grace of God cannot enter the essence of that person. The heart does not allow the seed of God’s grace to take root. Based on the experience of the saints, this is a given for all of us.

If we consider ourselves as a parcel of land that we begin to dig and cultivate with the Prayer, we’ll notice that at first the ground may be soft and relatively easy to plow. But as we continue digging we reach a level of pebbles. Further down we reach solid rock. It is like sowing on granite. There are three reasons why the heart gets harder. 1. Over preoccupation with worldly affairs, 2. focus on physical pleasures, and 3. obsession with wealth.

How to break up the hard soil? The Prayer.

A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise.  Psalm 50:17

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 50:10

How do we acquire this heart?

A systematic askesis; fasting, ceaseless prayer, vigils, work; plus learning how to have patience with the many and unavoidable sorrows that they will encounter in life. (page 60)

Learn how to accept sorrows as divine gifts, including personal failures. Through experiences of grief human beings have the opportunity to place the stone of their heart into a grinder and turn it into dust. They must go through these sorrows of the heart. Through grief they may come out victorious. Life itself is a form of askesis. People just don’t recognize it and lose heart.

Part of the problem is the modern mind. What the Church teaches about these matters is geared for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Anyway, when I say sorrow, it does not mean that we celebrate suffering as if it is something to cherish and pursue. Rather, to the extent that suffering is unavoidable, accept it as a gift from Heaven. Then it will have a therapeutic impact on your heart. Redefine it in your mind as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Because that’s what is in reality. Whether people realize it or not, we live n a world of ongoing askesis. (page 61)

Pg. 62-temptation-in Greek peirasmos is trial or test. It could be a trial or test sent by God to help us progress in the spiritual life or it could be a suggestion of the devil.

4. Blindness5. Contamination– two related illnesses of the nous. When the soul suffers from hardness it is incapable of distinguishing between good and evil and is consequently rendered unable to recognize the presence of God. It is blind.

…those with eyes to see know from experience that all of reality is permeated with God.

Look at the saints, the people who have gotten to know God. You never hear them complain against anybody. They are critical of no one, often even the devil himself… (page 63)

Everybody is perceived as being within Providence. Therefore, for a real saint nothing is apprehended as really hostile. This is the reason why saints have absolutely no fears.

Logismoi (LOWG-is-me)

When the heart gets accustomed to putrid thoughts, or logismoi, then is suffers from contamination.

It is unavoidable to be assaulted by negative thoughts. The problem is when we allow these thoughts to enter the heart and stay there. When putrid thoughts get cultivated within the heart then the heart becomes accustomed to them. In fact, it relishes them. (page 64)

N.B. the difference between the two, the attitude of the saint and of the passion driven

6. Imprudence– the heart is not even aware what its true interests are. An imprudent heart suffers from folly. It has lost remembrance of death. It is focused on accumulating worldly rather than eternal things. (page 65)

All illnesses of the heart are interconnected. However, the primary illnesses out of which spring all the others are ignorance and forgetfulness of God. Whenever human beings make contact with the inner self and discover the divine reality within they automatically get healed from all the heart’s illnesses. This is the real healing of the self.

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