Now, after the devil, the cause of the passions is the impassioned eating of the most delectable kinds of foods. For if, as Scripture testifies, simply the sight of the tree was enough to make the serpent an acceptable and trustworthy counselor, how much more would the taste of the fruit have the same effect?
And if this is true for the taste, how much more is it so for the eating to repletion? Thus is it not clear that it was not yet profitable for our ancestors to eat of that tree through the senses? and because they did eat of it at the wrong time, was it not necessary for them to be cast our of paradise, to prevent them from making that divine land a council-chamber and workshop of evil? And should they not have undergone bodily death immediately after their transgression? But the Lord was long-suffering and patient with them.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia, vol.4, p.370)
Consequently our ancestors–who since they dwelt in the sacred land of paradise should never have forgotten God–ought first to have acquired more practice and, so to speak, schooling in simple, genuine goodness and to have gained greater stability in the life of contemplation. Being still in an imperfect and intermediate state–that is to say, easily influenced, whether for good or evil, by whatever they made use of–they should not have ventured on the experience of things pleasant to the senses.
They ought especially to have been on their guard against things that by nature greatly allure and dominate the senses and that seduce the entire intellect and give access to evil passions, thus rendering plausible the originator and creator of these passions.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia, vol.4, pp.369-370)
For only those fully established in the practice of divine contemplation and virtue can have concourse with things strongly attractive to the senses without withdrawing their intellect from the contemplation of God and of God and from hymns and prayers to Him. Only such people can make these things the material and starting-point for raising themselves to God, and through this noetic movement towards God can totally master sensual pleasure. And even though the pleasure may be novel, and may be greater and more powerful because of its novelty, they will not allow their soul’s intelligence to be overcome by that which is evil, even though at the time it is regarded as good by those totally captured and mastered by it.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.369)
St Gregory of Nazianzos…writes: “The tree, in my vision of things, is divine contemplation, which only those established in a high degree of perfection can safely approach, while it is not good for those who are still immature and greedy in their desires, just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender and have need of milk.”
But even if you do not want to refer that tree and its fruit anagogically to divine contemplation, it is not difficult, I think, to see that eating its fruit was of no benefit to our ancestors, since they were still immature. In my opinion they saw that the tree was the most attractive in paradise to look at and to eat from. But the food most pleasant to the senses is not truly and in every way good, not is it always good, nor good for everyone. Rather it is good for those who can make use of it without being mastered by it, and then only when it is necessary and to the extent that it is necessary, and for the glory of Him who made it; but it is not good for those who are unable to make use of it in such a manner.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.369)
After our forefather’s transgression in paradise through the tree, we suffered the death of our soul–which is the separation of the soul from God–prior to our bodily death; yet although we cast away our divine likeness, we did not lose our divine image.
Thus when the soul renounces its attachment to inferior things and cleaves through love to God and submits itself to Him through acts and modes of virtue, it is illuminated and made beautiful by God and is raised to a higher level, obeying His counsels and exhortations; and by these means it regains the truly eternal life.
Through this life it makes the body conjoined to it immortal, so that in due time the body attains the promised resurrection and participates in eternal glory. But if the soul does not repudiate its attachment and submission to inferior things whereby it shamefully dishonors God’s image, it alienates itself from God and is estranged from the true and truly blessed life of God; for as it has first abandoned God, it is justly abandoned by Him.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.363)
What organs…does the power of the soul that we call ‘intellect’ make use of when it is active?…some locate it in the head, as though in a sort of acropolis…but it is located in the heart as in its own organ. And we know this because we are taught it not by men but by the Creator of man Himself when He says, “It is not that which goes into man’s mouth that defiles him, but what comes out of it” (Matthew 15:11), adding, “for thoughts come out of the heart” (Matthew 15:19).
St Makarios the Great says the same: “The heart rules over the whole human organism, and when grace takes possession of the pastures of the heart, it reigns over all a man’s thoughts and members. For the intellect and all the thoughts of the soul are located there.”
Our heart is, therefore, the shrine of the intelligence and the chief intellectual organ of the body. When, therefore, we strive to scrutinize and to amend our intelligence through rigorous watchfulness, how could we do this if we did not collect our intellect, outwardly dispersed through the senses, and bring it back within ourselves–back to the heart itself, the shrine of the thoughts?
It is for this reason that St Makarios–rightly called blessed–directly after what he says above, adds: “So it is there that we must look to see whether grace has inscribed the laws of the Spirit.” Where? In the ruling organ, in the throne of grace, where the intellect and all the thoughts of the soul reside, that is to say, in the heart. Do you see, then, how greatly necessary it is for those who have chosen a life of self-attentiveness and stillness to bring their intellect back and to enclose it within their body, and particularly within that innermost body within the body that we call the heart?
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.334)
…do not leave any part of your soul or body unwatched. In this way you will master the evil spirits that assail you and you will boldly present yourself to Him who examines hearts and minds (cf. Psalms 7:9); and He will not scrutinize you, for you will have already scrutinized yourself. As St Paul says, “If we judged ourselves we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31).
Then you will experience the blessing that David experienced, and you will say to God, “Darkness will not be darkness with Thee and night shall be bright as day for me, for Thou hast taken possession of my mind” (cf. Psalms 139:12-13). It is as if David were saying that not only has God become the sole object of his soul’s desire, but also that any spark of this desire in his body has returned to the soul that produced it, and through the soul has risen to God, hangs upon Him and cleaves to Him. For just as those who cleave to the perishable pleasures of the senses expend all the soul’s desire in satisfying their fleshly proclivities and become so entirely materialistic that the Spirit of God cannot abide in them (cf. Genesis 6:3), so in the case of those who have elevated their intellect to God, and who through divine longing have attached their soul to Him, the flesh is also transformed, is exalted with the soul, communes together with the soul in the Divine, and itself likewise becomes the possession and dwelling-place of God, no longer harboring any enmity towards Him or any desires that are contrary to the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:17).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.339)