Ladder of Divine Ascent | 15

Step 15

On incorruptible purity and chastity to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat.


We have heard from that raving mistress gluttony who has just spoken, that her offspring is war against bodily chastity. And this is not surprising since our ancient forefather Adam teaches us this too.

For if he had not been overcome by his stomach he would not have known what a wife was. That is why those who keep the first commandment do not fall into the second transgression. And they continue to be children of Adam without knowing what Adam has been since his fall. But they are a little lower than the angels (in being subject to death).And this is to prevent evil from becoming immortal, as he who is called the Theologian says.

1. Purity means that we put on the angelic nature. Purity is the longed-for house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart. Purity is a supernatural denial of nature, which means that a mortal and corruptible body is rivalling the celestial spirits in a truly marvellous way.

2. He is pure who expels love with love and who has extinguished the material fire by the immaterial fire.

3. Chastity is the name which is common to all the virtues.

4. He is chaste who even during sleep feels no movement or change of any kind in his constitution.

5. He is chaste who has continually acquired perfect insensibility to difference in bodies.

6. The rule and limit of absolute and perfect purity is to be equally disposed towards animate and inanimate bodies, rational and irrational.

7. Let no one thoroughly trained in purity attribute its attainment to himself. For it is impossible for anyone to conquer his own nature. When nature is defeated, it should be recognized that this is due to the presence of Him who is above nature. For beyond all dispute, the weaker gives way to the stronger.

8. The beginning of purity is the refusal to have anything to do with bad thoughts and occasional dreamless emissions; the middle state of purity is natural movements due to excess of food, but without dreams and emissions; and the end of purity is the mortification of the body after previously mortifying bad thoughts.

9. Truly blessed is he who has acquired perfect insensibility to every body and colour and beauty.

10. Not he who has kept his clay undefiled is pure, but he whose members are completely subject to his soul.

11. He is great who remains free from passion when touched. But greater is he who remains unwounded by sight, and who has conquered the fire caused by the beauties of earth by meditation on the beauties of heaven.

12. He who drives away this dog by prayer is like someone fighting with a lion; he who subdues him by his resistance is someone still pursuing his enemy; but he who has once for all reduced its appeal to nothing, even though he is still in the flesh, is as one who has already risen from his coffin.

13. If a sign of true purity is to be unmoved by dreams during sleep, then it is certainly a mark of sensuality to be subject to emissions from (impure) thoughts when awake.

14. He who fights this adversary by bodily hardship and perspiration is like one who has tied his foe to a dry branch. But he who opposes him by temperance, sleeplessness and vigil is like one who puts a dog-collar on him. He who opposes him by humility, freedom from irritability and thirst is like one who has killed his enemy and hidden him in the sand. And by sand I mean humility, because it produces no fodder for the passions but is mere earth and ashes.

15. One keeps this tormentor bound by struggles, another by humility, and another by divine revelation. The first resembles the morning star, the second the full moon, and the third the blazing sun; and they all have their home in heaven. But from the dawn comes light, and in the light the sun rises. So too with what has been said, we can reflect and make discoveries.

16. A fox pretends to be asleep, and the body and demons pretend to be chaste; the former in order to deceive a bird, and the latter in order to destroy a soul.

17. Throughout your life, do not trust your body, and do not rely on it till you stand before Christ.

18. Do not trust to abstinence not to fall. One who had never eaten was cast from heaven.2

19. Certain learned men have well defined renunciation, by saying that it is hostility to the body and a fight against the stomach.

20. With beginners falls usually occur by reason of luxury; with intermediates because of haughtiness as well as from the same cause which leads to the fall of beginners; and with those approaching perfection, solely from judging their neighbour.

21. Some have extolled those who are eunuchs by nature because they are delivered from the martyrdom of the body; but I daily extol those who make themselves eunuchs by castrating their bad thoughts as with a knife.

22. I have seen people who fell unwillingly, and I have seen people who would willingly fall but cannot. And I pitied the latter much more than those who fall daily; because even though impotent, they yearn for the stench.

23. He who falls is to be pitied. But still more to be pitied is he who causes another to fall, because he bears the burden of both, and further, the burden of pleasure tasted by the other.

24. Do not expect to confute the demon of fornication by arguing with him; for with nature on his side, he has the best of the argument.

25. He who has resolved to contend with his flesh and conquer it himself struggles in vain. For unless the Lord destroys the house of the flesh and builds the house of the soul, the man who desires to destroy it has watched and fasted in vain.

26. Offer to the Lord the weakness of your nature, fully acknowledging your own incapacity, and you will receive imperceptibly the gift of chastity.

27. In sensual people (as one who had experienced this passion personally told me after he had got over it) there is a feeling of a sort of love for bodies and a kind of shameless and inhuman spirit which openly asserts itself in the very feeling of the heart. This spirit produces a feeling of physical pain in the heart, fierce as from a blazing stove. As a result of this the sufferer does not fear God, despises the remembrance of punishment as of no consequence, disdains prayer, and during the very act itself regards the body almost as a dead corpse, as though it were an inanimate stone. He is like someone out of his mind and in a trance, perpetually drunk with desire for creatures, rational and irrational. And if the days of this spirit were not cut short, not a soul would be saved, clothed as it is in this clay, mingled with blood and foul moisture. How could they be? For everything created longs insatiably for what is akin to it—blood desires blood, the worm desires a worm, clay desires clay. And does not flesh too desire flesh? Yet we who bridle nature and desire the Kingdom try various tricks to deceive this deceiver. Blessed are they who have not experienced the conflict described above! Let us pray that we may always be delivered from such a trial, because those who slip into the pit we have mentioned fall far below those ascending and descending by the ladder;and to get out of that pit to the point of beginning to ascend they need much sweat and extreme abstinence.

28. We ought to consider whether our spiritual enemies have not each their own proper task to fulfil when drawn up in battle array against us, just as in a visible war. Surprising to say, they certainly have. When I thought about those who were tempted, I observed that falls were of varying seriousness. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

29. The devil often has the habit, especially in warring against ascetics and those leading the solitary life, of using all his force, all his zeal, all his cunning, all his intrigue, all his ingenuity and purpose, to assail them by means of what is unnatural, and not by what is natural. Therefore, ascetics coming into contact with women, and not in any way tempted either by desire or thought, have sometimes regarded themselves as already blessed, not knowing, poor things, that where a worse downfall had been prepared for them, there was no need of the lesser one.

30. I think that our wretched murderers have the habit of besetting and seducing us poor creatures with sins contrary to nature for the following two reasons: that we may have everywhere plenty of opportunity to fall, and that we may receive greater punishment. What we have just said, was learnt by personal experience by him who had previously commanded asses and had afterwards been given over to wild asses and pitifully disgraced; and though he had previously been nourished with heavenly bread he was afterwards deprived of this blessing. And what is most astonishing is that even after his repentance, our founder Antony, grieving bitterly, said of him: ‘A great pillar has fallen.’ But that wise man hid the manner of the fall, for he knew that bodily fornication is possible without intercourse with another body. There is in us a kind of death; there is in us a devastating sin, which is ever borne about with us, but especially in youth. But I have not dared to write about it because my hand is restrained by him who said: the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of, or to write or to hear.

31. This my beloved adversary (and yet not mine)—the flesh— was called death by Paul: Who, says he, will deliver me from this body of death? And another theologian6 calls it a passionate, slavish and nocturnal enemy. I used to long to know why it was given such names. If the flesh, as was said above, is death, who ever has conquered it undoubtedly does not die. But who is the man who will live and not see death in the impurity of his flesh?

32. I ask you to consider this question: who is greater, he who dies and rises again or he who does not die at all? Those who extol the latter are deceived, for Christ both died and rose. But he who extols the former urges that for the dying, or rather the falling, there is no cause whatever for despair.

33. And our merciless foe, teacher of fornication, says that God is very merciful towards this passion as it is a natural one. But if we observe the guile of the demons we shall find that after sin has been committed they say that God is a just and inexorable Judge. They said the former in order to lead us into sin, and now the latter to drown us in despair.

34. As long as sorrow and despair are present, we do not so easily abandon ourselves to further sin. But when sorrow and despair are quenched, the tyrant speaks to us again of God’s mercy.

35. The Lord, being incorruptible and incorporeal, rejoices in the purity and incorruptibility of our body. But nothing gives such joy to the demons, some say, as the stench of fornication, and no other passion so gladdens them as the defilement of the body.

36. Purity means that we put on the likeness of God, as far as is humanly possible.

37. The mother of sweetness is earth and dew, and the mother of purity is silence with obedience. Dispassion of the body attained by silence, has often been shaken on coming into contact with the world; but that obtained by obedience is genuine and inviolable everywhere.

38. I have seen pride lead to humility. And I remembered him who said: Who has known the mind of the Lord? The pit and fruit of conceit is a fall; but a fall is often an occasion of humility for those who are willing to use it to their advantage.

39. He who wants to overcome the demon of fornication with gluttony and surfeiting is like a man who puts out a fire with oil.

40. He who attempts to stop this war by temperance, and by that alone, is like a man who has the idea of escaping the sea by swimming with one hand. Join humility to temperance, because without the former the latter is useless.

41. He who sees that some passion is getting the better of him, should first of all take up arms against this passion, and moreover against this passion alone, especially if it is the domestic foe; because until this passion is destroyed, we shall not derive any profit from the conquest of other passions. When we have killed this Egyptian,we shall certainly see God in the bush of humility.

42. During temptation I have felt that this wolf was producing incomprehensible joy, tears and consolation in my soul, but I was really being deceived when I so childishly thought to have fruit from this and not harm.

43. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside the body, while he who commits impurity sins against his own body, and this is certainly because the very substance of the flesh is defiled by pollution, which cannot happen in the other sins.

44. And I should like to ask: Why in the case of every other sin do we usually say that people have slipped, and simply that; but when we hear that someone has committed fornication, we say sorrowfully: So and so has fallen?

45. A fish swiftly escapes a hook; and a sensual soul shuns solitude.

46. When the devil wishes to tie two people to each other by a shameful bond, he works on the inclinations of both of them, and then lights the fire of passion.

47. Those who are inclined to sensuality often seem sympathetic, merciful, and prone to compunction; while those who care for chastity do not seem to have these qualities to the same extent.

48. A certain learned man put a serious question to me, saying: ‘What is the gravest sin, apart from murder and denial of God?’ And when I said: ‘To fall into heresy,’ he asked: ‘Then why does the Catholic Church receive heretics who have sincerely anathematized their heresy, and consider them worthy to partake in the Mysteries; while on the other hand when a man who has committed fornication is received, even though he confesses and forsakes his sin, the Apostolic Constitutions order him to be excluded from the immaculate Mysteries for a number of years?’ I was struck with bewilderment, and what perplexed me then has remained unsolved.

49. In judging delights felt by us during psalmody, let us examine, ponder and observe what comes to us from the demon of fornication, and what comes from the words of the Spirit and from the grace and power contained in them.

50. Do not be ignorant of yourself, young man. I have seen men pray with all their soul for their loved ones, who in reality were moved by the spirit of fornication, while believing that they were fulfilling the law of love.

51. Touch alone is sufficient for bodily defilement, for nothing is so dangerous as this sense. Remember him who wrapped his hand in his cassock when about to carry his sick mother, and deaden your hand to natural or unnatural things, whether your own or another’s body.

52. I think that one ought not to call anyone a saint in any real sense, until he has transformed this earth into holiness, if such a transformation is even possible.

53. When we are lying in bed let us be especially sober and vigilant, because then our mind struggles with the demons without our body, and if it is sensual, it readily becomes a traitor.

54. Always let the remembrance of death and the Prayer of Jesussaid as a monologue go to sleep with you and get up with you; for you will find nothing to equal these aids during sleep.

55. Some think that battles and emissions during sleep come only from food. But I have observed that people who are seriously ill and the strictest fasters are very prone to these pollutions. I once asked one of the most experienced and distinguished monks about this, and the blessed man explained it to me very clearly. ‘Emissions during sleep,’ said that ever-memorable man, ‘come from abundance of food and from a life of ease. They also come from contempt, when we pride ourselves that we have not been subject to these effluxes for a long time. And also they come from judging our neighbour. The last cases,’ he added, ‘can happen even to the sick.’ But perhaps all three can. But if anyone is unable to find any of these reasons in himself, then he is indeed blessed to be so free from passion. And if this happens to him, then it comes solely from the envy of the demons, and God allows it for a time in order that, after a sinless mishap, he may obtain the most sublime humility.

56. Let no one get into the habit of thinking over during the day-time the phantasies that have occurred to him during sleep; for the aim of the demons in prompting this is to defile us while we are awake by making us think about our dreams.

57. Let us listen again to another wile of our foes. Just as food bad for the body produces sickness after a time or some days, so this often happens in the case of actions which defile the soul. I have seen some give way to luxury and not at once feel the attacks of the enemy. I have seen others eat with women and converse with them and at the time have no bad thoughts whatsoever in their mind. They were thus deceived and encouraged to grow careless and to think that they were in peace and safety, and they suddenly suffered destruction in their cells. But what bodily and spiritual destruction comes to us when we are alone? He who is tempted knows. And he who is not tempted does not need to know.

58. On these occasionsthe best aids for us are: sackcloth, ashes, all-night standing, hunger, moistening the tongue in moderation when parched with thirst, dwelling amongst the tombs, and above all humility of heart; and if possible a spiritual father or a careful brother, an elder in spirit to help us. But I shall be surprised if anyone will be able to save his ship from the sea by himself.

59. One and the same sin often incurs a condemnation a hundred times greater for one person than for another, according to character, place, progress, and a good deal else.

60. Someone told me of an extraordinarily high degree of purity. He said: ‘A certain man,on seeing a beautiful body, thereupon glorified the Creator, and from that one look he was moved to the love of God and to a fountain of tears. And it was wonderful to see how what would have been a cause of destruction for one was for another the supernatural cause of a crown.’ If such a person always feels and behaves in the same way on similar occasions, then he has risen immortal before the general resurrection.

61. Let us be guided by the same rule in singing melodies and songs. For lovers of God are moved to holy gaiety, to divine love and to tears both by worldly and by spiritual songs; but lovers of pleasure to the opposite.

62. As we have said before, some people in hermitages suffer far more severe attacks from the enemies. And no wonder! For the demons haunt such places, since the Lord in His care for our salvation has driven them into the deserts and the abyss (of hell). Demons of fornication cruelly assail the solitary in order to drive him back into the world, as having received no benefit from the desert. Demons keep away from us when we are living in the world, that we may go on staying among worldly-minded people because we are not attacked there. Hence we should realize that the place in which we are attacked is the one in which we are certainly waging bitter war on the enemy; for if we ourselves are not waging war, the enemy is presenting himself as our friend.

63. When we are in the world for some justifiable reason, we are protected by the hand of God, perhaps through the prayer of our spiritual father, that the Lord may not be blasphemed through us. And sometimes we are protected through our insensitivity and through having had long experience of the sights of the world and its subjects of conversation and all its doings. And sometimes it is because the demons go away of their own accord and leave us only the demon of conceit which takes the place of all the rest.

64. Hear yet another trick and villainy of that deceiver, all you who wish to be confirmed in purity, and look out for it. One who had experience of this craftiness told me that the demon of sensuality very often hid himself completely, and while a monk was sitting or conversing with women, he would suggest to him extreme piety, and perhaps even a fountain of tears, and would put into his mind the thought of instructing them on the remembrance of death, judgment, and chastity. Then the poor women, being deceived by his speech and false piety, would run to this wolf as to a shepherd, and when at last acquaintance ripened into familiarity, the unfortunate monk would suffer a fall.

65. Let us by every means in our power avoid either seeing or hearing of that fruit which we have vowed not to taste. For it is absurd to think ourselves stronger than the Prophet David—that is impossible.

66. Purity is worthy of such great and high praise that certain of the Fathers ventured to call it freedom from passion.

67. Some say that those who have tasted sin cannot be called pure. In refutation of this view I would say: If anyone is willing, it is possible and easy to graft a good olive on to a wild olive. And if the keys of heaven had been entrusted to one who had always lived in a state of virginity, then perhaps the teaching of those who maintain what I have quoted above would be right. But let them be put to shame by him who had a mother-in-law, and having become pure, received the keys of the Kingdom.

68. The snake of sensuality is many-faced. In those who are inexperienced in sin he sows the thought of making one trial and then stopping. But this crafty creature incites those who have tried this to fresh trial through the remembrance of their sin. Many inexperienced people feel no conflict in themselves simply because they do not know what is bad; and the experienced, because they know this abomination, suffer disquiet and struggle. But often the opposite of this also happens.

69. When we rise from sleep in a good and peaceful mood, we are being secretly encouraged by the holy angels, especially if we went to sleep with much prayer and watching. But sometimes we rise from sleep in a bad mood, and this is a result of evil dreams and visions.

70. I have seen the wicked highly exalted and towering aloft and foaming and raging in me like the cedars of Lebanon. And I passed by with temperance and lo, his fury was not as before, and I humbled my thought and sought him out, and his place could not be found in me—not a trace of it.

71. He who has conquered his body has conquered nature; and he who has conquered nature has certainly risen above nature. And he who has done this is little (if at all) lower than the angels.

72. It is not surprising for the immaterial to struggle with the immaterial. But it is truly surprising for one inhabiting matter, and in conflict with this hostile and crafty matter, to put to flight immaterial foes.

73. The good Lord shows His great care for us in that the shamelessness of the feminine sex is checked by shyness as with a sort of bit. For if the woman were to run after the man, no flesh would be saved.

74. In the rulings made by the Fathers a distinction is drawn between different things, such as attraction, or intercourse, or consent, or captivity, or struggle, or so-called passion in the soul. And these blessed men define attraction as a simple conception, or an image of something encountered for the first time which has lodged in the heart. Intercourse is conversation with what has presented itself, accompanied by passion or dispassion. And consent is the bending of the soul to what has been presented to it, accompanied by delight. But captivity is a forcible and involuntary rape of the heart or a permanent association with what has been encountered which destroys the good order of our condition. Struggle, according to their definition, is power equal to the attacking force, which is either victorious or else suffers defeat according to the soul’s desire. And they define passion in a special sense as that which lurks disquietingly in the soul for a long time, and through its intimacy with the soul brings it finally to what amounts to a habit, a self-incurred downright desertion. Of all these states the first is without sin, the second not always, but the third is sinful or sinless according to the state of the contestant. Struggle is the occasion of crowns or punishments. Captivity is judged differently, according to whether it occurs at the time of prayer, or at other times; it is judged one way in matters of little importance, and in another way in the case of evil thoughts. But passion is unequivocally condemned in every case, and demands either corresponding repentance or future correction.

Therefore he who regards the first attraction dispassionately cuts off at a single blow all the rest which follow.

75. Amongst the more precise and discerning Fathers there is mention of a still more subtle notion, something which some of them call a flick of the mind.This is its characteristic: without passage of time, without word or image, it instantaneously introduces the passion to the victim. There is nothing swifter than this in the material world or more indiscernible in the spiritual. It manifests itself in the soul by a simple remembrance with which the soul has no time to dally, since it is independent of time, unconnected with any image, impervious to analysis, and in some cases even unknown to the person himself. If anyone, therefore, with the help of mourning has been able to detect such a subtlety, he can explain to us how it is possible for a soul, by the eye alone, by a mere glance, or the touch of the hand, or the hearing of a song, without any notion or thought, to commit a definite sin of impurity.

76. Some say that it is from thoughts of fornication that passions invade the body. But some affirm on the contrary that it is from the feeling of the body that evil thoughts are born. The former say that if the mind had not gone before, the body would not have followed after. And the latter adduce the malice of bodily passion in justification of their view, saying that often bad thoughts manage to enter into the heart as the result of a pleasant sight, or the touch of a hand, or the smell of perfume, or hearing sweet voices. If anyone can do so in the Lord, let him explain this; for knowledge of this sort is extremely necessary and profitable for those living the active life scientifically. But for those practising virtue in simplicity of heart, this is not of the least importance. For not all have knowledge; but neither have all the blessed simplicity which is the breastplate against the wiles of evil spirits.

77. Some passions pass to the body from the soul, and some do the opposite. The latter happens to people living in the world, but the former to those living the monastic life, because of the lack of outward stimulus. But about this I will only say: Thou shalt seek wisdom among evil men and shalt not find it.

78. When we have struggled much with this demon, partner of filth, and driven it out of our heart, torturing it with the stone of fasting and the sword of humility, then this wretch like some kind of worm hides itself in our body and endeavours to defile us, tickling us into senseless and untimely movements.

79. It is those who are subject to the demon of arrogance who especially suffer in this way; because, as their hearts are no longer continually occupied with impure thoughts, they are prone to the passion of pride. And in order to be convinced of the truth of what has been said, when they have achieved a certain measure of holy quiet, let them discreetly examine themselves. Then they will certainly find that some thought is concealed in the depth of their heart like a snake in dung, suggesting to them that they have made some progress in purity of heart by their own effort and zeal. Poor wretches! They do not think of what was said: ‘What hast thou that thou didst not receiveas a free gift, either from God, or by the co-operation and prayers of others?’ And so let them look to their own affairs, and let them cast out of their heart with all speed the snake mentioned above, killing it by much humility, so that when they have got rid of it they may in time be stripped of their clothing of skinand as chaste children sing to the Lord the triumph song of purity; if only, when they are stripped, they do not find themselves naked of that humility and freedom from malice which is natural to children.

80. This demon much more than any other watches for critical moments. And when we are physically unable to pray against it, then the unholy creature launches a special attack against us.

81. Those who have not yet obtained true prayer of the heart, can find help in violence in bodily prayer—I mean stretching out the hands, beating the breast, sincere raising of the eyes to heaven, deep sighing, frequent prostrations. But often they cannot do this owing to the presence of other people, and so the demons especially choose to attack them just at this very time. And as we have not yet the strength to resist them by firmness of mind and the invisible power of prayer, we yield to our enemies.

If possible, go apart for a brief space. Hide for a while in some secret place. Raise on high the eyes of your soul, if you can; but if not, your bodily eyes. Hold your arms motionless in the form of a cross, in order to shame and conquer your Amalekby this sign. Cry to Him who is mighty to save, using no subtle expressions but humble speech, preferably making this your prelude: Have mercy on me, for I am weak. Then you will know by experience the power of the Most High, and with invisible help you will invisibly drive away the invisible ones. He who accustoms himself to wage war in this way will soon be able to put his enemies to flight solely by spiritual means; for the latter is a recompense from God to doers of the former; and rightly.

82. In a gathering where I was, I noticed that an earnest brother was troubled by evil thoughts. As he could not find a suitable place for secret prayer, he went out as if compelled by natural necessity to the place set apart for that purpose, and there armed himself with vigorous prayer against the enemy.

When I reproached him for choosing an indecent place, he replied: ‘In an unclean place I prayed to drive away unclean thoughts in order to be cleansed of all impurity.’

83. All demons try to darken our mind, and then they suggest what they want to. For as long as the mind does not shut its eyes, we shall not be robbed of our treasure. But the demon of fornication tries to do this much more than all the rest. Often, after darkening our mind which controls us, it urges and disposes us in the presence of people to do what only those who are out of their mind do. Then later when the mind becomes sober we are ashamed of our unholy acts, words and gestures not only before those who saw us but also before ourselves, and we are amazed at our previous blindness. Often as a result of such reflection, men have desisted from this evil.

84. Banish the enemy when he hinders you from prayer, meditation, or vigil after you have committed sin. Remember Him who said: Yet because the soul tormented by the thought of previous sins gives me trouble, I will give her relief from her enemies.

85. Who has conquered his body? He who has crushed his heart. And who has crushed his heart? He who has denied himself. For how can he not be crushed who has died to his own will?

86. There is a passionate person more passionate than the passionate, and he will even confess his pollutions with pleasure and enjoyment. Unclean and shameful thoughts in the heart are generally produced by the deceiver of the heart, the demon of fornication. But temperance and disregard of them is the cure.

87. But I do not know by what habit and rule of life I can bind this friend of mine and judge him by the example of the other passions. For before I can bind him he is let loose; before I can condemn him I am reconciled to him; before I can punish him I bend down and pity him. How can I hate him whom by nature I habitually love? How can I get free of him with whom I am bound forever? How can I escape what will share my resurrection? How am I to make immortal what has received a mortal nature?

What argument can I use to one who has the argument of nature on his side?

88. If I bind him by fasting, by condemning my neighbour I am handed over to him again. If, desisting from judgment, I overmaster him, then being proud of this, I am subjected to him again. For he is an ally and a foe, an assistant and a rival, a defender and a traitor. If I humour him he attacks me. If I exhaust him he gets feeble. When he is rested, he misbehaves himself. If I turn away in loathing, he cannot bear it. If I mortify him, I endanger myself. If I strike him down, I have nothing with which to obtain virtues. I embrace him and I turn away from him.

89. What is this mystery in me? What is the meaning of this blending of body and soul? How am I constituted a friend and foe to myself? Tell me, tell me, my yoke-fellow, my nature, for I shall not ask anyone else in order to learn about you. How am I to remain unwounded by you? How can I avoid the danger of my nature? For I have already made a vow to Christ to wage war against you. How am I to overcome your tyranny? For I am resolved to be your master.

90. And the flesh might say in reply to its soul: ‘I shall never tell you anything which you do not know equally well, but only of things of which we both have knowledge. I have my fatherwithin me—self- love. The fire which I experience from without comes from humouring me and from general comfort. The fire which burns within comes from past ease and bygone deeds. Having conceived, I give birth to sins, and they, when born, in turn beget death or despair. If you know the deep and obvious weakness which is in both you and me, you have bound my hands. If you starve your appetite, you have bound my feet from going further. If you take the yoke of obedience, you have thrown off my yoke. If you obtain humility, you have cut off my head.’

This is the fifteenth reward of victory. He who has received it while still living in the flesh has died and risen, and from now on experiences the foretaste of future immortality.