A Gem Of Cassian

Of the three origins of our thoughts:

Above all we ought to know that there are three origins of our thoughts – from God, from the devil, and from ourselves.

They come from God when He confirms them with an illumination of the Holy Spirit, lifting us up to a higher state of progress. Or if we have made but little progress or if because we have acted slothfully, we have been overcome, He chastens us with the most salutary compunction. Or when He discloses to us heavenly mysteries, or turns our purpose and will to better actions, as in the case where the king Ahasuerus, being chastened by the Lord, was prompted to ask for the books of the annals, by which he was reminded of the good deeds of Mordecai, and promoted him to a position of the highest honor and at once recalled his most cruel sentence concerning the slaughter of the Jews. (See Esther 6). Or when the prophet says: “Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Psalm 85 : 9) Another prophets tells us also “Then the angel who was speaking to me said…” (Zech 1 : 14). Or when the Son of God promised that He would come with His Father, and make His abode in us (John 14, 23), and “it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt 10 :20) And the chosen vessel: “you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me.” (2 Cor 13,3)

But a whole range of thoughts springs from the devil, when he endeavors to destroy us either by the pleasures of sin or by secret attacks, in his crafty wiles deceitfully showing us evil as good, and transforming himself into an angel of light to us (2 Cor 11,4); as when the evangelist tells us: “And when supper was ended, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray” (John 13 :2) the Lord; and again after supper, he says, “Satan entered into him.”(John 13 : 27). Peter also says to Ananias: “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5 :3). And what we read in the Gospel was predicted by Ecclesiastes: “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post.” (Eccl 10 : 4). The same is said by God against Ahab in the First Book of Kings, in the character of an unclean spirit: “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.” (I Kings 22:22).

But thoughts arise from ourselves, when in the course of nature we recollect what we are doing or have done or have heard. Of which the blessed David speaks: ” I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired” (Psalm 77 : 6). And again: “The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.” (Psalm 94 : 11). and “The plans of the righteous are just,” (Proverbs 12 : 5). In the Gospel too the Lord says to the Pharisees: “why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9 : 4)

We ought then carefully to notice this threefold origin, and analyze our thoughts wisely, tracking out their origin, cause and author so that we may be able to consider how we ought to react to them according to who is suggesting them so that we may disown them as the Lord’s command bids us and become good money-changers. Their highest skill to test what is perfectly pure gold and what is commonly termed tested, or what is not sufficiently purified in the fire. They are not taken in by a common brass denarius, even if, colored with bright gold, it looks like some coin of great value. The money changer not only shrewdly recognizes coins stamped with the heads of usurpers, but also detects those which have the image of the right king, but are not properly made. Lastly he is careful to see that they are not under the proper weight by the test of the balance. We should do the same. Whatever has found an entrance into our hearts, and whatever doctrine has been received by us, should be most carefully examined to see whether it has been purified by the divine and heavenly fire of the Holy Spirit , or whether it belongs to Jewish superstition, or whether it comes from the pride of a worldly philosophy and only externally makes a show of religion. And this we can do, if we carry out the Apostle’s advice, “Believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are of God.” (I John 4 : 1)


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