Monday, March 31, 2008

22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.

Hi, ladies. We have no poster today, and this weekend was pretty exhausting, so I'm going to leave this post wide open. I will share that this has been one of the most puzzling of the maxims for me. What do you think it means?


Elizabeth said...

Might this refer to a tendency to mentally sketch out elaborate scenarios which portray oneself in a good light, preferably in a leading role, and others in a less worthy role?

This tendency to elaborately and idly daydream, of unlikely situations and how I would react to them, crops up occasionally and always seems to be a put-down of other people's thoughts and behaviour.

Carla said...

This maxim reminds me of a recent situation where a friend blasted me with her anger and accusations. My tendency in these kinds of circumstances is to mull it over, become despondent, defensive and then angry and indignant. This particular time, when I awoke in the night feeling upset, I turned my thoughts to Christ, praying for His mercy on both me and my friend. I was amazed at the peace this brought and how it quelled the uprising within me.

Ina said...

A few years ago I did some study on this topic when I kept running across the concept in writings of steps in the clouding of our nous. Some of you might have seen the drawings I use to help illustrate this more readily. Sorry that I am too techno challenged to post them here as it shows the concept much more quickly than I will be able to describe in a few words. But essentially fantasy,images etc. is the first step in the progressive darkening or clouding of our nous as we live and sin over the years of our life.
They say that our nous before for the Fall and in babies is clear and is meant to be our direct communication with God...thus babies are able to see angels more readily etc. As we age and sin more and more, clouds or layers of sin darken the nous and hamper our ability to commune with God. This is what is referred to as 'the illness of the heart' or 'sin sickness'. Clearing our nous is the work of Lent.
These first 'clouds' darkening our nous are said to be fantasy and Images (received from our senses but stored when the reality is gone)The images can be either good or bad but they are only a remembrance of the reality. When we have a habit of thinking on them (like from a maxim we had the other day on thinking) the images often take on a life of their own and we develop opinions or attitudes about the images/event/person, regardless of whether the image/event/person was good or bad. How many of us have heard a word from someone that only mildly tweaked us but as we think about it, analyze it, etc. we get madder and madder. Another issue here is seeing something and thinking about it till we covet the object or person. Or manufacture daydreams or stories in our mind just to amuse ourselves....this is a problem with sexual or romantic fantasies developing. I often found that as I would take a rest in the day I would begin to have short stories run in my head. I even once entertained the idea of writing down these stories as they seemed so compelling and interesting to me and they had no apparent 'evil' in them. Apparently this daydreaming is a 'problem', especially for people with a 'creative' bent. One of the problems is that it becomes a great distraction and time waster keeping us from having spiritually profitable thoughts instead. It can also lead to other more sinful habits. Another problem with these fantasies is that they can cause us to develop whole situations or civilizations in our minds where we are the 'controller' of the whole fantasy. Thus we elevate ourselves to godlike/creator status.
There are many kinds of 'Fantasy' listed by Church Fathers, but 4 main kinds :
1. Images of the Flesh
2. Reverie– daydream, ideal situations,…
3. Creative– develop civilizations, art
4. Speculation about God, visualize or conceive heavenly powers in rational way
These images often start as 'logismoi' or rational thoughts that just randomly float into our heads. It is what we do with them that makes them a problem. When we dwell on them and give them a life of their own, etc.
The next layers of clouds that come after Fantasy, imagination etc. are 'Opinion' and then 'Intellect' which would each require lengthy explanations that I won't go into here. But finally the nous can become so dark that it actually breaks apart and is attached more directly to our physical senses and we feel no need for God. And we have no hope of hearing or communing with God if our 'God radio receiver' is not only unplugged but is actually taken apart. Thus we read about needing to 'gather our nous'; collecting the parts of the nous and putting it back together and clean it up so it can once again pick up those radio waves of communication with the One who loves us most. Thus all this is the concentrated work of Lent but something we have to keep at all the time too.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic and the likely explanation of why things like 'thinking' etc. are also included on Fr. Tom's list.
Whew, forgive me if you are confused...maybe we will have a chance to see the drawings sometime! much easier.

Anonymous said...

Ina, this is beautiful and very instructive! It made me think of something I read in Bishop Brianchaninov's book on the Jesus Prayer: The devil, he says, will steal from the right and from the left. If he can't steal from the left, that is, by means of open sin and temptation, then he will steal from the right -- he will fill your head with lofty thoughts. However good they may be, they will pull your attention slowly away from God -- and toward yourself.

jocelyn said...

Uuuuuuuugh, I suffer so much from this; exactly what Elizabeth was describing. When given too much time to mull over something that either did happen or might happen, it's so easy to get wrapped up in a false reality--the picture in your head of what you believe is going to happen or did happen. As we know, false realities, created imaginings can lead us astray, and cloud our judgment, as Ina described.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.