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On virtues and vices

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By St. John of Damascus

Therefore, it should be known that man, being dual ¬ composed of soul and body, also possesses dual sensations and accordingly ¬ their virtues; with five being the soul and five the body. And the perceptions of the soul, which the heathen philosophers call possibilities, are the following: reason, thought, opinion, idea, and sensation. The bodily ones are: sight, smell, hearing, taste and sensation. Whence their virtues are double, vices also double. So it is necessary for every man to know clearly how many are the passions of the soul and what are the passions of the body.

Of the virtues of the soul we say that there are four most exalted, which are the following: manliness, prudence, prudence, and justice, and from them arise those virtues of the soul: faith, hope, love, prayer, humility, meekness, longsuffering, endurance of evils , goodness, non-anger, divine knowledge, dispassion, simplicity, equanimity, unpretence, non-vanity, low-mindedness, unenvy, guilelessness, unselfishness, compassion, charity, charity, fearlessness, non-sorrow, contrition, respectability, fearlessness, desire for future good, aspiration for the kingdom God, desire to be adopted and [by God].

The bodily virtues are the following (or rather the means of the virtues), obtained in knowledge and from God, leading man out of all pretense and gratification, into the progress of humility, and to dispassion. And these are: abstinence, fasting, craving, staying awake, standing at night, kneeling unceasingly, not washing, wearing a single garment, eating dry food, eating scanty food, eating fast, drinking water and not wine, lying on one’s bed on the ground, poverty, impoverishment , neglect, non-coquettishness, unselfishness, seclusion, tranquility, sitting at home, scarcity, self-sufficiency, silence, doing work with one’s own hands, and all forbearance of evil, exercise of the body, all of which are precisely the most necessary and useful, in a situation, that the body is healthy even when it is disturbed by carnal passions. And if he is sick and has survived with God’s help from them, they are not so necessary, since holy humility and prayer fill everything.

We are obliged, therefore, to speak of both spiritual and bodily passions. And the passions of the soul are these: forgetfulness, ignorance, from these very passions the eye of the soul, i.e. the mind, darkened, is governed by all passions, such as these: impiety, wrong opinion, i.e. every heresy, blasphemy, anger, wrath, malice, short temper, hatred of man, spitefulness, slander, condemnation, unreasonable despondency, fear, apprehension, quarrelsomeness, jealousy, envy, vanity, pride, pretense, falsehood, unbelief, desire for more, desire for material gain, partiality, attachment to earthly things, indifference, narrow-mindedness, ingratitude, murmuring, vanity, prejudice, haughtiness, boasting, lust for power, people-pleasing, deceit, shamelessness, insensibility, flattery, dissimulation, mockery, duplicity, habituation to the sins of the passionate part [of the soul] and constant preoccupation with them, wandering of thoughts, love of self ¬ parent of all evils; and the root of all evil is covetousness, and malice, and wickedness.

And the passions of the flesh are: gluttony, gluttony, luxury, drinking, eating in secret, every lust for pleasure, fornication, adultery, licentiousness, moral impurity, incest, corruption of children, bestiality, evil desires and all unnatural and shameful passions, theft, robbery of shrines, robbery, murder, bodily indulgence and enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh (when the body is stronger), divination, sorcery, incantations, bird-divination, gossiping, coquettishness, ear-ringing, idle talk, adornment, massaging the faces, reprehensible idleness, wandering of the mind, gambling, addiction and abuse of worldly pleasures, living for the sake of the body, which fattens the mind and makes it earthly and animal, and never allows it to rise to God and to the perfection of virtue.

Roots of all passions and as some would say ¬ riots ¬ are love of pleasure, love of fame, love of money, from which all evil is born. But a man commits no sin unless, as Mark, the wisest of ascetics, says, he has been overcome and subdued by these mighty giants; namely: forgetfulness, carelessness and ignorance. They give them pleasure and relaxation, this ¬ to love fame among people, anointing. And the primary cause of all these, and in the capacity of the most evil mother, as has already been said, is self-love, or unreasonable love of the body and strong excitement, because the dissipation and release of reason by jokes and shameful thoughts are the hosts of many evils and downfalls, such as recklessness and laughter.

In addition to all this, it must be understood how diverse and diverse the passionate love of pleasures is and that many pleasures deceive the soul when it is not sober according to God, does not behave from the fear of God and from the love of Christ, occupied by work on the virtues. Precisely because a thousand pleasures are brought about, drawing the eyes of the soul to themselves: these are [pleasures] of the body, of money, of luxury, of fame, of carelessness, of anger, of social position, of avarice, of excess. And in the guile they appear with a look of splendor and pleasing; they are apt to attract those who look with reverence on such things, and do not particularly love virtue, and cannot endure its hardness. Any association with anything earthly and attachment to any of the material things causes useless and [even] harmful pleasure and enjoyment of addictions. The passionate libido of the soul in him shows how because of this [he], oppressed by deprivation of what is desired, throws himself into anger, wrath, sadness, and bad memory.

But if by means of predilection, and whatever established habit, it seems that one imperceptibly and incurably drifts to the end of the unreasonable predilection, which prepares the one caught by the hidden pleasure in himself. For, as was said before, the pleasure occasioned by desire is diverse; and it is filled not only with fornication and other bodily pleasures, but also with other passions. Therefore, to be wise is not only to abstain from fornication and subliminal pleasures, but also to be outside of other pleasures. Because of them the lover of money, silver and luxury is insatiable. Just as he loves the body, so this one loves money. But this one is more insatiable, inasmuch as there is no such force of nature to repel it.

So we must clearly understand that the love of pleasures does not consist only in licentiousness and enjoyment of the bodies, but also in every manner and deed of the soul’s personal choice because of predilection. But in order to understand more clearly about the passions according to the trimerium of the soul, we decided to briefly state the following.

On the tripartiteness of the soul

The soul is divided into three: rational, sensual and instinctive. Of the sensible sins are the following: unbelief, heresy, imprudence, slander, ingratitude, and approval of bodily sins, which arise from the passionate portion [of the soul]. The cure for these evils is unshakable faith in God, true and firm and orthodox dogmas of piety, unceasing care for the thoughts of the spirit, pure and unceasing prayer, and communion before God.

For the sensual

On the sensual side, the sins are the following: cowardice, hatred, hard-heartedness, malice, envy and murder, constant concern for such things. The treatment and therapy of these is humanity, love and kindness.

For the drive

On the instinctive part, the sins are the following: gluttony, gluttony, excessive drinking of wine, fornication, adultery, impurity, unrestrainedness, love of money, passion for empty fame, and for gold and wealth, and for carnal pleasures. Their treatment is: fasting, abstinence, longsuffering of evils, non-suffering, distribution of personal means to the poor, striving for those future immortal goods, seeking the kingdom of God, and earnestly desiring to be adopted by God.

We need to write something also about the judgment of the thoughts born of passion, through which every sin is committed.

Eight are all the thoughts that encompass evil: the thought of gluttony, that of fornication, that of avarice, anger, sadness, carelessness, vanity, haughtiness.

Illustration: V. M. Vasnetsov, St. Virgin and Child (Kyiv), fresco, XIX c.

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