A person who keeps turning round and round on the same spot and does not want to make any spiritual progress is like a mule that walks round and round a well-head operating a water-wheel. Always to be battling with your carnal proclivities and to be concerned only with disciplining the body through various forms of ascetic labor is to mistake God’s purpose and unwittingly to inflict great damage on yourself. ‘The gain to be derived from bodily discipline is but limited’, says St Paul (1 Timothy 4:8)–at any rate as long as the earth-bound will of the flesh has not been swallowed up in tears of repentance, as long as the life-quickening deadness of the Spirit has not supervened in our body, and the law of the Spirit does not reign in our mortal flesh.
But true devotion of soul attained through the spiritual knowledge of created things and of their immortal essences is as a tree of life within the spiritual activity of the intellect: it is ‘profitable in all things’ (cf. 1 Timothy 4:8) and everywhere, bestowing purity of heart, pacifying the soul’s powers, giving light to the intellect and chastity to the body, and conferring restraint, all-embracing self-control, humility, compunction, love, holiness, heavenly knowledge, divine wisdom, and the contemplation of God. If then, as a result of great spiritual discipline you have attained such perfection of true devotion you will have crossed the Red Sea of the passions and will have entered the promised land, from which flow the milk and honey of divine knowledge (cf. Exodus 3:8), the inexhaustible delight of the saints.