Know, that in this unseen warfare, two wills existing in us fight against one another: one belongs to the intelligent part of our soul and is therefore called the intelligent will, which is the higher; the other belongs to the sensory part and is therefore called the sensory will, which is the lower. The latter is more frequently called the dumb, carnal, passionate will. The higher will is always desiring nothing but good, the lower—nothing but evil. Each equally happens by itself, so that neither is a good desire in itself reckoned as good, nor an evil desire as evil. The reckoning depends upon the inclination of our own free will. Therefore, when our will inclines towards a good desire, it is reckoned in our favour; but when we incline towards an evil desire, it is reckoned against us.
These desires follow one upon another: when a good desire comes, an evil desire immediately opposes it; and when an evil desire comes, a good desire at once rises against it.. Our will is free to follow the one and the other, and whatever desire our will inclines towards, it becomes victorious on this particular occasion. It is in this that all our unseen spiritual warfare consists. Its aim should be never to let our free will incline towards the desire of the lower, carnal and passionate will, but always to follow only the intelligent, higher will. For it is the will of God, to follow which is the basic law of our being: ‘ Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man “ says the Preacher (Ecclesiastes xii. 13). Each of these desires draws our will towards itself and wishes to subjugate it. Stifle the lower desire and incline towards the higher—and victory is yours; but disregard the higher and choose the lower, and you will find yourself . Paulwrites of this: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members’ (Rom. vii. 21-53). And he gives to all the rule: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust. of the flesh’ (Gal. v. 16). And this cannot be accomplished without struggling with the flesh.
A particularly great effort and laborious toil must be experienced to start with by those who, before deciding to change their worldly and carnal life to a righteous one and to give themselves up to the practices of love and sincere service of God, had enmeshed themselves in evil habits through frequent satisfaction of the desires of their carnal and passionate will. Although the demands of their intelligent will, which they wish to follow, stand on one side of their free will and arc made active by God, yet on the other side there stand the desires of the carnal and passionate will, towards which they still feel a certain sympathy. Opposing the former, these desires pull it towards their side with the same force as a beast of burden is pulled by its halter; and only the grace of God gives them strength to remain firm in the decision they have taken. .Long-drawn resistance and not yielding them victory saps, the strength of carnal desires; yet this does not end the struggle.
So let no one dream of acquiring a true Christian disposition and Christian virtue, and of working for God as he should, if he does not want to compel himself to renounce and overcome all the passionate impulses of the will of the flesh, whether great or small, which he was formerly accustomed to satisfy, willingly and fondly. The chief reason why so few people attain to full Christian perfection is exactly their reluctance, through self-pity, to force themselves to deny themselves absolutely everything. But if, having overcome great passionate tendencies, they do not wish, thereafter, to compel themselves to overcome small ones, which seem unimportant, then, since these small tendencies are the outcome and expression of the great, by indulging in them they inevitably feed the latter, and so make them continue to live and act in the heart, in spite of the fact that they no longer manifest themselves on a large scale. And so the heart remains passionate and impure, and, above all, in no whit freed from self-indulgence and self-pity, which always make any practice to please God of doubtful value.
For example, there are men who refrain from appropriating other people’s possessions, but are excessively attached to their own, and who, on the one hand, lay too much trust in what they have, and on the other, arc slow to bestow alms. Others do not seek honours by evil means, yet do not count them as nothing, and often even welcome them, if those honours can be made to appear to come against their will. Others again keep long fasts according to the statutes, yet do not refrain from satisfying their desire to eat their fill, and to eat well, which deprives the fast of all value. Others lead a chaste life, yet continue their connections and acquaintanceship with people they like, and enjoy it, not wishing to understand that, through this, they build a great obstacle to perfection in spiritual life and union with God.
I shall add to this the fact that some people disregard the natural defects of their character, which, although not dependent on selfwill, nevertheless make a man guilty if, seeing how much they interfere with spiritual life, he does not trouble not only to destroy them completely, but even to try and keep them within harmless bounds, although this could be achieved with the help of God’s grace, due attention to oneself and zeal. Such defects are for example: aloofness, hot temper, and excessive sensibility, with the consequent thoughtless hastiness in words, movements and actions, harshness and querulousness, obstinacy and argumentativeness, and so on. All these natural imperfections and faults should be corrected, in some by reducing excess, in others by adding what is lacking, and by translating both one and another into corresponding good qualities. For no natural feature, no matter how savage and stubborn it is, can stand up against the will if, armed with the grace of God, it resists it with all attention and diligence.
And so it happens that some perform good deeds, but these deeds remain imperfect, lame, mixed with the lusts, which reign in the world (John ii. 16). And so such people make no progress on tile path to salvation, but turn round and round on one spot, and often even turn back and fall again into their former sins. This shows that even from the first their love for true life in Christ was not wholehearted, that they were not sufficiently filled with the feeling of gratitude to God, Who had delivered them from the power of the devil, and not perfect in their decision to work only for Him and to please Him. As a result such people remain forever untrained in good, are blind and fail to see the danger in which they stand, thinking that their position is secure and that no harm threatens them. Owing to all this, my beloved brother in Christ, I beseech you to love the hard toil and heavy burdens which inevitably accompany our unseen warfare, if you do not wish always to be overcome. The wise Sirach counsels the same: ’Hate not laborious work’ (Ecclesiasticus vii. 15). For this is the very foundation of the whole of inner warfare. The more you love this hard toil, or this pitiless driving of yourself, the more quick and complete will be your victory over yourself and over that in yourself, which resists the higher good. And through this you will be filled with every virtue and good disposition, and God’s peace will come to dwell in you.