“It is one thing to do battle with a bare stream of thought in order not to incite the passion, and it is another to do battle with deep emotion in order that it does not produce assent. Both modes do not permit the streams of thought to linger.” Maximos the Confessor, Centuries on Love III, # 87
Maximos picks up the theme of “streams of thoughts” or logismoi. God gave us minds in order that we may think. It is part of the glory of creation that humans have been given rational minds. And our minds are good. Our thoughts are good as well. Thinking, reflecting, ruminating, meditating, analyzing, producing counter-arguments, and contemplating with the mind are all natural and good and holy practices of the beloved creature of God, and we should rejoice in them always. Thoughts are a gift from God given for our health, salvation, and happiness.
But sometimes our thoughts carry us to places that are not for our health, salvation, and happiness. Sometimes our thoughts take us to dark places of the remembrance of past injuries, or to vindictive scenarios with people with whom we are in conflict, or to self-deprivation and feelings of inadequacy and diminished value. These negative “streams of thought” are what Maximos is talking about. We all have them, and they seem also to be a natural function of our God-given minds. But we must find a way to make a relationship, a saving relationship, with these negative streams of thoughts. If given license, these negative streams will lock us in patterns of thought and relationship that hinder the work of the divine energies within us to move toward divinization.
Maximos calls the mode of making a saving relationship with these negative streams of thought doing battle. He envisions the struggle with these negative streams of thought as a battle for control and power over our person. It is an unusual image for Maximos, so it is one we must take seriously. Warring within ourselves with negative streams of thought certainly describes the experience of facing these mental processes. When the negative streams of thought begin, we know we have to fight to regain equilibrium and to reestablish us in the experience of the inner divine energies working. The negative streams of thought derail us from our path toward divinization and sanctification, so we must struggle to put ourselves back on the right track.