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Mental wolves.

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 2:15) 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! 

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