It is right noble to fight with wickedness and wrong; the mistake is in supposing that spiritual evil can be overcome by physical means.
Mysticism intends a state of "possession," not action, and the individual is not a tool but a "vessel" of the divine. Action in the world must thus appear as endangering the absolutely irrational and other-worldly religious state. Active asceticism operates within the world; rationally active asceticism, in mastering the world, seeks to tame what is creatural and wicked through work in a worldly "vocation" (inner-worldly asceticism). Such asceticism contrasts radically with mysticism, if the latter draws the full conclusion of fleeing from the world (contemplative flight from the world). The contrast is tempered, however, if active asceticism confines itself to keeping down and to overcoming creatural wickedness in the actor's own nature. For then it enhances the concentration on the firmly established God-willed and active redemptory accomplishments to the point of avoiding any action in the orders of the world (asceticist flight from the world). Thereby active asceticism in external bearing comes close to contemplative flight from the world. The contrast between asceticism and mysticism is also tempered if the contemplative mystic does not draw the conclusion that he should flee from the world, but, like the inner-worldly asceticist, remain in the orders of the world (inner-worldly mysticism).
In both cases the contrast can actually disappear in practice and some combination of both forms of the quest for salvation may occur. But the contrast may continue to exist even under the veil of external similarity. For the true mystic the principle continues to hold: the creature must be silent so that God may speak.
To kill one man is to be guilty of a capital crime, to kill ten
men is to increase the guilt ten-fold, to kill a hundred men is
to increase it a hundred-fold. This the rulers of the earth all
recognize and yet when it comes to the greatest crime—waging
war on another state—they praise it!
It is clear they do not know it is wrong, for they record
such deeds to be handed down to posterity; if they knew they
were wrong, why should they wish to record them and have
them handed down to posterity?
If a man on seeing a little black were to say it is black, but
on seeing a lot of black were to say it were white, it would be
clear that such a man could not distinguish between black and white.
Or if he were to taste a few bitter things were to pronounce
them sweet, clearly he would be incapable of distinguishing
between sweetness and bitterness. So those who recognize a
small crime as such, but do not recognize the wickedness of the
greatest crime of all—the waging of war on another state–but
actually praise it—cannot distinguish between right and wrong.
So as to right or wrong, the rulers of the world are in confusion.
Every human soul has the germ of some flowers within; and they would open, if they could only find sunshine and free air to expand in. I always told you that not having enough of sunshine was what ailed the world. Make people happy, and there will not be half the quarreling or a tenth part of the wickedness there is.
He that first started that doctrine, that knavery is the best defense against a knave, was but an ill teacher, advising us to commit wickedness to secure ourselves.
A system of ethics may be based either on fear or on love, but not on both. When based on fear, the letter of the law, as a rule, will be executed, but not its spirit. Because of fear, men may deal honestly with one another, but they will not necessarily be honest men, they may speak truthfully even and not be truthful. Fear develops a dual personality, one manifested in the presence of the object feared, the other, perhaps of extremely opposite tendencies, unfolded in the secret chamber of the heart. In a system of ethics based on fear, man is persuaded that he is weak and untrustworthy, that his nature is hopelessly corrupt, unable to master itself except at the lash of a Force lying outside himself. Man, it then would seem, is innately wicked ; his wickedness must be chained by threats of divine wrath and punishment ; he, of his own accord, would not walk in the path that is straight ; he must be forced into it by the gaps and ditches that are lurking dangerously outside this path. Such a system, in which man is convinced that he is unable to take care of himself, build his own character, merely tends to generate moral weakness and cowardice. A system of ethics based on love develops a unified personality, a oneness between thought and action. It enhances, more and more, the moral courage which is basic to man. Through love, man becomes conscious of the great force of goodness and virtue that lie within him. He knows that he is possessed of inherent goodness and godliness, if he knows that in himself is a spark of the divine, a force that makes for perfection. All he needs to do is to allow this divine spark to illuminate and permeate his whole being, and darkness and evil will disappear from his heart.
I don't withdraw a word of my initial statement. But I do now think it may have been incomplete. There is perhaps a fifth category, which may belong under insane but which can be more sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented, bullied, or brainwashed. Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn, almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and their understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other. I think this is one of the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind. There is wickedness here, but it is the wickedness of the institution and what it does to a believing victim, not wickedness on the part of the victim himself.
May it please Thee, O Lord my God,
To return to me in mercy,
And to bring me back to Thee in perfect repentance.
O dispose my heart and turn Thine ear to supplication,
And open my heart to Thy law,
And plant in my thoughts the fear of Thee,
And decree for me good decrees,
And annul the evil decrees against me,
And lead me not into the power of temptation,
Nor into the power of contempt,
And from all evil chances deliver me,
And hide me in Thy shadow until the havoc pass by,
And be with my mouth in my meditation,
And keep my ways from sin through my tongue,
And remember me when Thou rememberest and favourest Thy people,
And when Thou rebuildest Thy Temple,
That I may behold the bliss of Thy chosen ones,
And purify me to seek diligently Thy Sanctuary devastated and ruined,
And to cherish its stones and its dust,
And the clods of its desolation,
And rebuild Thou its wastes!
You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.
I define charity as a motion of the soul whose purpose is to enjoy God for His own sake and one’s self and one’s neighbor for the sake of god. Lust, on the other hand is a motion of the soul bent upon enjoying one’s self, one’s neighbor, and any creature without reference to God.
I look forward, not to what lies ahead of me in this life and will surely pass away, but to my eternal goal. I am intent upon this one purpose, not distracted by other aims, and with this goal in view I press on, eager for the prize, God's heavenly summons. Then I shall listen to the sound of Your praises and gaze at Your beauty ever present, never future, never past. But now my years are but sighs. You, O Lord, are my only solace. You, my Father, are eternal. But I am divided between time gone by and time to come, and its course is a mystery to me. My thoughts, the intimate life of my soul, are torn this way and that in the havoc of change. And so it will be until I am purified and melted by the fire of Your love and fused into one with You.
It is said that the highest state of prayer is reached when the intellect goes beyond the flesh and the world, and while praying is utterly free from matter and form. He who maintains this state has truly attained unceasing prayer.”
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
We have icons in our houses, and venerate them, in order to show, amongst other things, that the eyes of God and of all the heavenly dwellers are constantly fixes upon us, and see not, only all our acts, but also our words, thoughts and desires.
It is His good pleasure that we remain always in the holy joy of His love.
Our Lord and the saints accomplished more by suffering than by acting.
I have learned never to ridicule any man's opinion, however strange it may seem.
Those who wish to learn the will of the Lord must first mortify their own will. Then having prayed to God with faith and guileless simplicity, and having asked the fathers or even the brothers with humility of heart and no thought of doubt, they should accept their advice as from the mouth of God, even if their advice be contrary to their own view, and even if those consulted are not very spiritual. For God is not unjust, and will not lead astray souls who with faith and innocence humbly submit to the advice and judgment of their neighbor. Even if those who were asked were brute beasts, yet He who speaks is the Immaterial and Invisible One. Those who allow themselves to be guided by this rule without having any doubts are filled with great humility.
If self-denial be the greatest part of godliness, the great letter in the alphabet of religion, self-love is the great letter in the alphabet of practical atheism. Self is the great antichrist and anti-God in the world, that sets up itself above all that is called God; self-love is the captain of that black band: it sits in the temple of God, and would be adored as God. Self-love begins; but denying the power of godliness, which is the same with denying the ruling power of God, ends the list.
Is God a being less to be regarded than man, and more worthy of contempt than a creature? It would be strange if a benefactor should live in the same town, in the same house, with us, and we never exchange a word with him; yet this is our case, who have the works of God in our eyes, the goodness of God in our being, the mercy of God in our daily food, yet think so little of him, converse so little with him, serve everything before him, and prefer everything above him. Whence have we our mercies but from his hand? Who, besides him, maintains our breath at this moment? Would he call for our spirits this moment, they must depart from us to attend his command. There is not a moment wherein our unworthy carriage is not aggravated, because there is not a moment wherein he is not our guardian and gives us not tastes of a fresh bounty.