Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter XIX. The answer concerning the threefold condition of souls.
The answer concerning the threefold condition of souls.
Daniel: There are, according to the statements of Scripture, three kinds of souls; the first is the carnal, the second the natural, and p. 337 the third the spiritual: which we find are thus described by the Apostle. For of the carnal he says: “I gave you milk to drink, not meat: for you were not able as yet. But neither indeed are you now able; for you are yet carnal.” And again: “For whereas there is among you envying and contention, are you not carnal?” 1305 Concerning the natural he also speaks as follows: “But the natural man perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him.” But concerning the spiritual: “But the spiritual man judgeth all things: and he himself is judged by no man.” 1306 And again “You who are spiritual instruct such ones in the spirit of meekness.” 1307 And so, though at our renunciation we ceased to be carnal, i.e., we began to separate ourselves from intercourse with those in the world, and to have nothing to do with open pollution of the flesh, we must still be careful to strive with all our might to attain forthwith a spiritual condition, lest haply we flatter ourselves because we seem as far as the outer man is concerned to have renounced this world and got rid of the defilement of carnal fornication, as if by this we had reached the heights of perfection; and thence become careless and indifferent about purifying ourselves from other affections, and so being kept back between these two, become unable to reach the stage of spiritual advancement; either because we think that it is amply sufficient for our perfection if we seem to separate ourselves, as regards the outward man, from intercourse with this world and from its pleasure, or because we are free from corruption and carnal intercourse, and thus we find ourselves in that lukewarm condition which is considered the worst of all, and discover that we are spued out of the mouth of the Lord, in accordance with these words of His: “I would that thou wert hot or cold. But now thou art lukewarm and I will begin to spue thee out of My mouth.” 1308 And not without good reason does the Lord declare that those whom he has previously received in the bowels of His love, and who have become shamefully lukewarm, shall be spued out and rejected from His bosom: in as much as, though they might have yielded Him some health-giving subsistence, they preferred to be torn away from His heart: thus becoming far worse than those who had never found their way into the Lords mouth as food, just as we turn away with loathing from that which nausea compels us to bring up. For whatever is cold is warmed when received into the mouth and is received with satisfaction and good results. But whatever has been once rejected owing to its miserable luke-warmness, we cannot—I will not say touch with the lips—but even look on from a distance without the greatest disgust. Rightly then is he said to be worse, because the carnal man, i.e., the worldly man and the heathen, is more readily brought to saving conversion and to the heights of perfection than one who has been professed as a monk, but has not, as his rule directs, laid hold on the way of perfection, and so has once for all drawn back from that fire of spiritual fervour. For the former is at last broken down by the sins of the flesh, and acknowledges his uncleanness, and in his compunction hastens from carnal pollution to the fountain of true cleansing, and the heights of perfection, and in his horror at that cold state of infidelity in which he finds himself, he is kindled with the fire of the spirit and flies the more readily to perfection. For one who has, as we said, once started with a lukewarm beginning, and has begun to abuse the name of monk, and who has not laid hold on the way of this profession with the humility and fervour that he ought, when once he is infected by this miserable plague, and is as it were unstrung by it, can no longer of himself discern what is perfect nor learn from the admonitions of another. For he says in his heart that which the Lord tells us: “Because I am rich and wealthy and want nothing;” and so this which follows is at once applied to him: “But thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” 1309 and he is so far in a worse condition than a worldly man, because he has no idea that he is wretched or blind or naked or requires cleansing, or needs to be directed and taught by any one; and on this account he receives no sound advice as he does not realise that he is weighted with the name of monk, and is lowered in the judgment of all, whereas, though everybody believes him to be a saint and regards him as a servant of God, he must hereafter be subjected to a stricter judgment and punishment. Lastly, why should we any longer linger over those things which we have sufficiently discovered and proved by experience? We have often seen those who were cold and carnal, i.e., worldly men and heathen, attain spiritual warmth: but lukewarm and “natural” men never. And these too we read in the prophet are hated of the Lord, so that a charge is given to spiritual and learned men to desist from warning and teaching them, and not to sow the seed of the p. 338 life-giving word in ground that is barren and unfruitful and choked by noxious thorns; but that they should scorn this, and rather cultivate fallow ground, i.e., that they should transfer all their care and teaching, and their zeal in the life-giving word to pagans and worldly men: as we thus read: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” 1310
1 Cor. 3:2, 3.337:1306
1 Cor. 2:14, 15.337:1307
Gal. vi. 1.337:1308
Rev. 3:15, 16.337:1309
Rev. iii. 17.338:1310
Jerem. iv. 3.
Next: Chapter XX. Of those who renounce the world but ill.
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