Extracts

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Purification and detachment from the body


essay

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[1 of 7] Underhill, Evelyn (1875-1941, England): primary subject "Purification, refinement" (search under Inner Life/Practices)": source "Mysticism"
This mortifying process is necessary, not because the legitimate exercise of the senses is opposed to Divine Reality, but because those senses have usurped a place beyond their station; become the focus of energy, steadily drained the vitality of the self. "The dogs have taken the children's meat." The senses have grown stronger than their masters, monopolized the field of perception, dominated an organism which was made for greater activities, and built up those barriers of individuality which must be done away if true personality is to be achieved, and with it some share in the boundless life of the One. It is thanks to this wrong distribution of energy, this sedulous feeding of the cuckoo in the nest, that "in order to approach the Absolute, mystics must withdraw from everything, even themselves."

[2 of 7] St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662, Turkey): primary subject "Contemplation" (search under Inner Life/Practices)": detail "'Seven Centuries of the Greek Philokalia'"
Between God and man there stand objects apprehended through the senses and objects contemplated by the mind. Desiring to reach God the human mind must not be enslaved by sensory objects in active life and must in no wise be kept back by mental objects in contemplative life.

[3 of 7] Maneri, Sharafuddin (1263-1381, India): primary subject "Fasting, dieting" (search under Inner Life/Practices)"
Bodily strength depends on food and drink, whereas spiritual strength depends on going hungry and thirsty. In God’s domain, hunger is a divine food.

[4 of 7] St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359, Turkey): primary subject "Contemplation" (search under Inner Life/Practices)": source "Triads"
In every case, those who practice true mental prayer must liberate themselves from the passions, and reject any contact with objects which obstruct it, for in this way they are able to acquire undisrupted and pure prayer. As for those not yet arrived at this degree, but who seek to attain it, they must gain the mastery over every sensual pleasure, completely rejecting the passions, for the body's capacity to sin must be mortified; that is, one must be released from domination by the passionate emotions. Similarly the judgement must vanquish the evil passions which move in the world of mind, that is, it must rise above the sensual delights.

[5 of 7] Anonymous (3000 BC-current, World): primary subject "Fasting, dieting" (search under Inner Life/Practices)": detail ""Pilgrim's Tale" (Russian Orthodox), sixth meeting"
Why, for example, when you want to purify the soul do you purify the body beforehand, imposing a fast on yourself, depriving your body of nourishing and stimulating food? It is, of course, so that the body may not impede, or to put it a better way, so that it may be conducive to purity of soul and enlightenment of reason; so that the unceasing sensation of bodily hunger may remind you of your resolution to seek interior perfection and the God-pleasing pursuits that you so easily forget. And you sense by experience that through the external fasting of your material body you obtain interior refinement of your reason, peacefulness of heart, weaponry to subdue the passions, and a reminder about spiritual exercise. Thus by means of outward matter you receive interior spiritual benefit and aid.

[6 of 7] Maneri, Sharafuddin (1263-1381, India): primary subject "Asceticism, renunciation" (search under Inner Life/Practices)"
The sexual appetite and anger are like dogs and horses. Without these two, one cannot go hunting for eternal bliss. The precondition is to bring both to heel. If they gain the upper hand, then they can wreak a man’s destruction. The whole purpose of austerities is to break the dominance of these two qualities and place them firmly under control. It is possible to do this.

[7 of 7] St. John of the Cross (1542-1591, Spain): primary subject "Suffering, is necessary" (search under Inner Life/Death, Suffering)": detail "‘Living Flame of Love’ (second redaction) Stanza II.25-26"
And the reason why these trials are necessary for the soul that is to reach this state [of union] is that, just as a liquor of great excellence is placed only in a strong vessel, which has been made ready and purified, so this most lofty union cannot belong to a soul that has not been fortified by trials and temptations. …
 For virtue is made perfect in weakness, and is wrought by the experience of sufferings.