Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Self-Deception & Carelessness ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )
In the teaching of Saint Theophan the Recluse there are several layers that tie us to sin. Closest to our heart is "self-deception, insensitivity and carelessness." Then on top of that is "absent-mindedness and much-caring." The outer layer is "prevalence of the flesh."
Self-Deception & Carelessness -- Absent Mindedness & Busyness -- Demands of the Body
While the most important of these is the one closest to the heart we need to start with the outer layer and work our way into the one next to our heart. He says, "begin by removing the sinful coverings as one would remove layers of earth in order to expose a treasure buried beneath."
The first step is to discipline the demands of the body and learn to deny it pleasures, restrict indulgences and even natural needs. The most common practice in this area is fasting. Saint Theophan says "Through this the soul will free itself of the bonds of matter, will become more energetic, lighter, and more receptive to good impressions... the goal is very significant––it completely changes one's activity." Your habits are mastered and broken giving you a wider range of free choice.
Next is step is to address our busyness which does not leave anytime to work on ourselves. We need to establish time where we can set aside all our cares. This is what our daily prayer time is for. A time to set our cares aside for a time. When we create this space of solitude we will find that our minds are still very active. Practices like the Jesus Prayer are helpful in this regard, but most importantly as setting aside private time to be alone for a regular prayer routine.
With our cares set aside and our mind quieted we now come close to our heart. Saint Theophan says, "Before you is your inner self, sunk in the deep slumber of carelessness, insensitivity and blindness. Begin to awaken it." Now we have to know ourselves in a new and deeper way. We have to strip away all the prejudices we have about ourselves that blind us to the sinful reality we live in. We then come in tune with the reality of the moment.
Now we can bring to our awareness what keeps us in blindness. Here are a few common excuses that are part of self-delusion that Saint Theophan mentions.
Contenting yourself with saying:
• "I am a Christian,"
• "After all I am not the worst."
• "I am not so bad."
• "I am not sinful--am I the only one?"
I am sure you can find others excuses that keep you in blindness and filled with self-deception about the serious condition your soul is in. This insensitive condition is called "hardness of heart." The challenge is to learn how to soften it.
Saint Theophan the Recluse
Ref: Path to Salvation pp 129 - 137