A human soul is full of criss-crossing influences and
diverse mental currents. It is through the mind that thoughts originate — as
the Apostle states, "their thoughts accusing or else excusing them,"
(Rom ) bright or dark thoughts, elevated or base, affirming or
objectionable. The mind lives in a relay of vigour and somnolence, sharp vision
and blindness. Once, a novice complained to his "starets" (elder)
that unhealthy thoughts kept entering his soul. "Open your cape and
capture the wind" — responded the "starets" — "Can’t do it?
Likewise you cannot hide from that which flies around in the spiritual
atmosphere." It does happen that during one of these gusts, and because of
its intensity, the soul finds difficulty in coping with it: they are
"mental wolves;" we should guard against them, just as we guard
ourselves against sickness-bearing damp and cold air currents. We cope with
others with difficulty, due to reasons of our temporary lethargy, apathy,
falling in spirit i.e. that which the Fathers call depression.
"My soul faints for thy salvation: I have
hoped in thy words" (Ps. 119:81)" laments the ancient psalmist. "O
Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of idleness,
despondency, ambition and idle talk" — we pray with the words of an
Orthodox ascetic. All those who are toil speak of the possible visitations of
the spirit of depression, and consequently their prayers contain frequent
entreaties of deliverance from them. This feeling is an agonizing unholy state,
as though the soul had been blinded — until these feelings are replaced with a
fresh surge of grace-filled faith and prayerful effort. The righteous prays:
"open my eyes and I will understand the miracles from Your
commandments… (Ps. 119:18) enlighten mine eyes, O Christ God, lest at any time
I sleep unto death… and through Thine angels cause demonic despondency to be
driven far from me" (Prayers before sleep).
However, in the domain of faith, difficulties and
confusion that arise in the mind are not always without benefit. Any kind of
accomplishment occurs only through overcoming obstacles. With an increase in
strength, a person becomes capable of surmounting greater impediments — at
times placing them before himself — and conquering
them, then rising to a higher level. The same occurs in the religious sphere,
in the sphere of faith. And what a triumphant spiritual
feeling that person undergoes when a new, bright thought illuminates his soul
and vanquishes the mental barrier!