I. On Human Intellect

Human intellect perceives images of things, in the broad sense. The human intellect can react by:

1) desiring to possess in the physical sense;
2) seeking out the spiritual meaning;
3) some combination of 1) and 2).

1) objective reality;
2) intellect receives thought;
3) intellect identifies object;
4) intellect assigns value to object:
by passions;
by spiritual insights;

depending on free will.

by passions

bodily desires
– gluttony
– lust
– laziness

material desires
– greed
– envy

mental desires
– pride

each leading to anger and dejection.

In combat with temptation and sin, then:

1) analyze the thought attacking you;
2) ask questions about its inner essence;
3) ask questions about its spiritual meaning.

II. On Watchfulness and Prayer

1) How to achieve watchfulness
2) The virtues and prayer
3) How the demons attack the person seeking and at prayer
4) The frontiers of prayer

We consider personhood of highest value and that personhood emanates from God.

The creation produces thoughts, ideas, and speculations in the intellect through changes in the body.

Virtue is intellectual discipline and control of bodily desires (gluttony, lust, laziness), material desires (greed, envy), and mental desires (pride), which lead to anger and dejection.

A frugal and balanced diet, spiritual readings and writings, vigils and prayer, accompanied by love, bring the straying intellect to stability and the soul to peace.

Prayer is the energy that gives highest value to the intellect.

Prayer, then, also consists of practice of the virtues and contemplation.

We practice the virtues in order to achieve contemplation of the inner essences (λόγοι) of created things. From this we pass to contemplation of the Λόγος who gives created things their being. And He manifests Himself when we are in a state of prayer.

If you long to pray, do nothing that is opposed to prayer, so that God may draw near and be with you.

If you have not yet received the gift of prayer, do not despair and lose heart, you will receive it later.

If you seek prayer attentively, you will find it. For nothing is more essential to prayer then attentiveness. So do all you can to acquire it.

In other words, practice of the virtues – discipline and control of intellect and body – is the first step to acquiring attentiveness and being watchful, then to achieving fruitful prayer and maintaining focused contemplation of the spiritual essences of created things and of the Creator Himself (theosis through prayer).

Whenever a temptation or feeling of contentiousness comes over you, immediately arousing you to anger or some senseless passion, remember your prayer and how you will be judged about it, and at once the disorderly movement within you will subside.

The stakes, then, are failure of personhood versus spiritual prayer. For spiritual prayer is the fulfillment of personhood, peace, and salvation. Anything opposed to that is negative energy – κακοδαμονία –, though still necessary in the creation for God’s other purposes.
In this interplay of energies produced with the creation of the universe, there are rules set by the Creator, paramount among which is free will, but by which we can “win” the game, the Creator having endowed our souls with all the tools necessary to shape the energies, even multifold, in a fashion that reflects God’s glory, in accordance with His will.

If you set up spiritual prayer as your goal, be on guard for the risk of failure due to the inability, but really the unwillingness, to effectively deal with the negative energies, according to God’s will, God’s rules, the teachings of the prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and of the spiritual fathers.

At the least, the fallen angels, the demons, the demon, Satan, the enemy, represent failure of the free will, a failure of personhood and degradation into mere materialism.

The warfare between us and the demons, then, is waged solely on account of spiritual prayer. For prayer is extremely hateful and offensive to them, whereas it leads us to peace and salvation.

What is it, then, that the demons wish to excite in us? Gluttony, lust, greed, anger, rancor, and the rest of the passions, so that the intellect grows coarse and cannot pray as it should. For when the passions are aroused in the non-rational part of our nature, they do not allow the intellect to function properly.

But if you cultivate prayer, be ready for the attacks of the demons and endure them resolutely, for they will come at you like wild beasts and maltreat your whole body.

The demon is very envious when we pray and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose and exploit our weaknesses. The intellect is weakened by the passions to which we have succumbed in the past. Therefore, he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our body to arouse the passions, in order to obstruct our ascent to God:
– attempts to deceive us with
some vision;

– inserts fantasies, either of
past things, or of recent
concerns, or of the face of
someone who irritates us;

– suggests an imaginary need for
various things and then stirs
up our remembrance of them;

– fills the intellect with the
thought of these visions,
fantasies and imaginary needs,
so that the intellect tries to
pursue them, thus causing it to
lose the fruitfulness of prayer.

For by nature, the intellect is apt to be carried away by memories and visions during prayer. When you pray, then, keep tight discipline over your mind and memory so that it does not distract you with visions and recollections of the past.
Instead, make yourself aware that you are standing before God.

Go on seeking and you will find Him. Knock and the door will be opened.

Pray for the wisdom and strength to shape even the negative energies in accordance with God’s will, in the likeness of His glory, at least to the extent that it saves your soul.

Having prayed as you should, then, expect the demon to attack you. So stand on your guard, ready to protect the fruits of your prayer. From the start, this has been your appointed task: to cultivate and protect. Therefore, having cultivated, do not leave the fruits unprotected, otherwise you will gain nothing from your prayer.

When, after many attempts, the cunning demon fails to hinder the prayer of a righteous man, he slackens his effort a little, and then attacks the man again when he has finished praying: either the demon provokes the man to anger, and so destroys the good effects of prayer, or else he excites him to senseless pleasure, and so degrades his intellect.

When the jealous demon fails to stir up memory during prayer, he disturbs the soul-body temperament so as to form some strange fantasy in the intellect. Since your intellect is usually preoccupied with thoughts, it is easily diverted: it is deceived, thinking that it is perceiving light that is really only smoke, instead of pursuing immaterial and formless knowledge.

There are times when the demons suggest thoughts to you and then urge you to rebut them with prayer. Then they withdraw of their own accord, so as to deceive you into imagining that you have begun to overcome such thoughts and to rout the demons. You then lower your guard and the demons come on the attack again.

Therefore, even if you think that you are with God, be on your guard against this second attack: the demons try to outwit the activity and watchfulness of your intellect and draw it away from God when it stands before Him in reverence and fear.

When the intellect attains prayer that is pure and free from passion, the demons attack no longer with sinister thoughts, but with thoughts of what is good. For they suggest to the intellect an illusion of God’s glory in a form pleasing to the senses, so as to make the intellect think that it has realized the final aim of prayer.
This illusion may result from the passion of self-esteem, of pride.

Be on your guard, then, turn to prayer and ask God to show you if the intellection comes from Him and, if it does not, to dispel the illusion at once.

You attain pure prayer by disentangling yourself from material things and constant cares. Instead, focus on the inner essences of created things, on the spiritual meanings of physical manifestations of the work of creation. Ultimately, prayer means the shedding of thoughts and contemplation of the Creator.

In the meantime, out of compassion for our weaknesses, the Holy Spirit comes to us even when we are impure. And only if He finds our intellect truly praying to Him will He enter our intellect and put flight to a whole array of thoughts and ideas circling around it.
He puts an end to all adverse energy within the intellect and makes its light energize it without illusion, and He arouses the intellect to a longing for spiritual prayer.

The intellect must rise above contemplation of the material world in order to behold the kingdom of God perfectly.

When your intellect in its great longing for God withdraws from the body and turns away all thoughts that have their source in sense-perception, memory or soul-body temperament, and when it becomes full of reverence and joy, then you conclude that you are close to the frontiers of prayer.