What Pride of Mind and Pride of Will Are

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie). "What pride is and what it is born of".

Brother: Rev. Father, please tell me what pride is and what kinds of it are there in the world?

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie)

Elder: Let it be known to you, brother John, that pride is the beginning, root and source of all sin and all lawlessness. And since you have asked what kinds of it are there, then let it be known that, as St. Gregory the Dialogist says, “pride has five stages, and to understand these steps, you should first understand that there are five kinds of benefits to be proud of, namely:

natural benefits, that is, quick wit, beauty, courage, and the like;

the second type is the acquired benefits, such as knowledge, wisdom, skill, and the like;

the third type includes random goods, such as wealth, fame, position, and the like;

the fourth is the benefit of strong will;

the fifth is spiritual blessings, that is, the gift of prophecy, miracles and the like.”

So, brother John, at the first stage of pride is peculiar to the person who, possessing any of these benefits, does not recognize that he has received them from God, but believes that he has them by himself, in a natural way.

The second stage of pride is when a person admits that these benefits were given to him by God, but not for nothing, but because they befit him as supposedly worthy of them.

The third stage of pride is when someone thinks that he has some talents, which he, however, does not have.

The fourth stage of pride is when someone defames others and wants to be revered by all as more worthy than them.

The fifth, and last, step of pride is when a person comes to the point that he defames the holy laws and does not obey them as the holy fathers prescribed.

Let it be also known to you, brother John, and remember that pride has twelve daughters: vanity, curiosity, arrogance of mind, boasting, laziness, insolence, a hypocritical confession, self-justification, apostasy, self-will, willfulness, and getting completely accustomed to the sin.

Brother: But how does pride, Rev. Father, arise in a person’s mind?

Elder: Pride, brother John, tends to arise in the mind of a person mainly on the following grounds: selfishness, vanity, conceit, lack of knowledge of oneself, unreasonable and immoderate fasting, isolation of life, that is, willfulness, when a person lives according to his own mind and does not ask for advice from others.

Brother: Rev. Father, is there only one kind of pride or are there several kinds?

Elder: Pride, brother John, can be of two kinds, namely: the pride of our will and the pride of our mind.

Brother: And which one is worse or more dangerous?

Elder: Let it be known to you, brother John, that the pride of the mind is much worse.

Brother: Why is the pride of the mind worse than the pride of the will?

Elder: Because, brother John, the pride of the will, since it is more easily recognized by the mind, is easier to heal, for it is easier to subordinate to what is due, and when the mind is struck by pride and firmly convinced that its judgment is better than the judgment of others, then how to heal it? Having no one who could subordinate him to the judgment of others, he does not consider the other better than himself. If the eye of the soul - and this is the mind with which a person recognizes and purifies the pride of the will - is weak, blind and full of pride, then who can heal it? And if the light is darkness, and the road sign is turned the opposite way, then how can they light and direct others?

Therefore, brother John, we need to confront this dangerous pride of the mind more vigilantly and firmly. And, with great strength opposing it, we will curb the fervor of our mind, and we will subjugate our opinions to the opinions of others and become a fool for the sake of Christ's love, so that we can be wise, as it is said: If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise (1 Cor. 3:18).

So, brother John, understand that the pride of the mind is a demonic disease, for a person struck by it believes that he is great, that he is smarter than others and no longer needs someone's advice and help. May God keep us from this passion and demonic disease!

God himself, through the prophet Isaiah, curses those afflicted with this disease, saying to them: Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5: 21). And the great apostle Paul commands us: Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate (Rom. 12:16). And Solomon also says: Be not wise in thine own eyes (Proverbs 3:7).

Therefore, I think, brother John, that from what was said and understood clearly enough, you have realized that the pride of the mind is worse and more dangerous than the pride of the will. Know also that both the pride of the mind and the pride of the will are an evil that has many kinds. And this many-sided evil of the sin of pride is marvelously described by the holy and divine father John Climacus in this way: “Pride is denial of God, an invention of the devil, the offspring of praise, a sign of sterility of the soul, the mother of condemnation, flight from divine assistance, the precursor of madness, the herald of falls, a foothold for satanic possession, source of anger, door of hypocrisy, the support of demons, the guardian of sins, the patron of unsympathy, a bitter inquisitor, an inhuman judge, an opponent of God, a root of blasphemy”[1].

See, brother John, how manifold is the evil of the pride sin? Therefore, the Divine Scripture calls the proud one unclean before God, saying: Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 16:5). But it also calls the one who makes friends with the proud unclean, saying: He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith (Sir. 13:1). Therefore, brother John, this sin is extremely vile before God, and He punishes for it very severely.

[1] Cf: Venerable John, hegumen of Sinai. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Word 23. § 1. P. 150.

How does God punish the sin of pride?

Brother: I ask you, Reverend Father, tell me, how does God punish the sin of pride?

Elder: Listen, brother John! To imagine how vile the pride is to God and how He punishes it, it is enough to recall that it was only because of this sin that Satan fell and was cast out from heaven together with all his angels (see: Rev. 12:8–9). And in order to understand how deep the abyss into which the one obsessed with disgusting pride falls is, let us imagine from what glory and light Satan and the angels that were unanimous with him fell, what dishonor they fell into and what torment they became bound by.

And so that you would better imagine this, know, brother, that Satan, before his fall from the supreme light and glory, was not some insignificant creation of God, but was one of the most beautiful, most radiant, most decorated and selected creatures, the closest to God. According to the Holy Scripture, he was a morning star among heavenly spiritual hosts. He was a son of the unfading dawn, and a heavenly Cherub, the most beautiful, luminous, and adorning his Creator, God.

Divine Scripture writes about this symbolically, through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, who speaks to the prince of Tyrus like this: Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. And again: Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire (Ezekiel 28:13-14). Also, the prophet Isaiah calls Satan the radiant star and the son of the morning (see: Isa. 14:12). You see, brother John, what glory the devil possessed, what beauty and splendor he had before he fell with the great downfall?

But why did he fall from such bliss and beauty? Let’s ask the Holy Scriptures about this, and it will answer us, saying: Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee (cf. Ezek. 28:15). And explaining what kind of iniquity it was, rooted in Satan, the Divine Scripture says: You who said in your mind: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (cf. Isa. 14:13-14).

Then, explaining that because of this arrogance he fell from heaven, it says: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations (cf. Isa. 14:12). And then even clearer, indicating the reason for the fall of the devil, the Divine Scripture says: Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee (cf. Ezek. 28:17). And again, the Divine Scripture, describing the arrogance of Satan and his desire to embrace the inaccessible glory of God with his mind, says: By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire (cf. Ezek. 28:16).

Then, showing where Satan was cast out and expelled from that great glory that he had enjoyed in heaven, the Holy Scripture says: Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee (cf. Isa. 14:11). And he adds a little further: Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (cf. Isa. 14:15).

So, brother John, from these few testimonies of the Divine Scripture, I think you understand how God punishes pride and what harm it does to those who have it.

Brother: Indeed, Reverend Father, I understood this quite clearly, but I think that God appointed this punishment only for Satan and his angels, because they, like angels, could not sin as easily as we do. But I would like to ask you to tell me how God punishes pride in the human race?

Elder: Let it be known to you, brother, that much should be said on this question. But in order to be brief and so that we can imagine how severely God punishes the pride of men, I will first give the words of the Divine Scriptures, from which we see how God punished the pride of our ancestors Adam and Eve.

Brother: But what pride could our ancestors Adam and Eve have, Reverend Father? I know that they were punished by God, not for pride, but for disobedience, because they violated the commandment of God and ate from the forbidden tree!

Elder: Know, brother John, that our ancestors Adam and Eve were also diseased with pride and were seduced before disobedience and the transgression of the commandment, because the first sign of pride is neglect of obedience. [1].

This could also be noticed in our ancestors, when they despised obedience to God and transgressed His holy commandment. To test their obedience, God commanded them: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (cf. Genesis 2:16–17) The devil, however, seduced them to eat from this tree, saying that they would not only die, but would become as gods, knowing good and evil (see: Genesis 3:5). And they, having listened to the serpent, dared to transgress God's commandment and eat from the forbidden tree, imagining that they themselves would become gods! Therefore, the holy father Maximus the Confessor says: “As the devil fell because of dreams, he did the same for Adam and Eve to dream in their minds that they would become exactly like God, so that because of this dream they would fall” [2].

You see, therefore, brother John, that only after our forefathers fell and imagined in their mind that they would become like God, only then they despised obedience to their Creator and violated His commandment. So, let’s figure it out well.

And listen, brother John, how God punished their pride and transgression of the commandment. First of all, they inherited a twofold death: the death of the body and the death of the soul, that is, their souls entering hell. Secondly, they were expelled from the paradise of God. Thirdly, the ground was cursed because of their sin. And fourthly, they were punished by God and their Creator so that they, in their labors and sweat of their face, would get their food on the earth, all the days of their lives. So that the earth gives birth to thorns for people, and in the end they should return unto the ground from which they were created (see: Genesis 3:18–19). He then gave Eve a double punishment: that she gave birth to her children in sorrow and that her desire was to be to her husband, that is, that she was subordinate to him at all times.

But the biggest punishment and penance for them was spiritual death, that is, to remain in hell and suffer for 5508 years, that is, until the Coming of the Redeemer and the Resurrection of the New Adam, Christ from the dead.

Behold, brother John, how severe was the punishment of God to the human race for the sin of pride. Through the error of our forefathers Adam and Eve, the entire human race remained under penance until the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by His immeasurable humility and His obedience to death on the cross, healed their pride and disobedience and removed the condemnation to death of the entire human race.

Let it be said only about the punishment for the sin of pride of our ancestors Adam and Eve, and if you want to know about the punishment for this sin of other people, then read the Holy Scriptures. There you will see how God punished the sons of Israel (see: Deut. 1:43–44), how He punished the pride of those who began to build the Tower of Babel (see: Genesis 11:4–8), how He punished the pride of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king (see: Dan. 4:22; 5:20–23), and also learn about the punishment of the king Manasseh (see: 2 Chronicles 33:11). And from many other Scriptures - the Old and New Testament, you will find out how much God hates proud people.

[1] See: Venerable John, hegumen of Sinai. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Word 23. § 4, 7. P. 150.

[2] In Romanian: St. Maximus the Confessor. Word 65.

Temptations attacking proud people.

Brother: Reverend Father, and which of the proud are not attacked by temptations?

Elder: The temptations that God, brother John, allows to attack the proud are much greater, and they are much harder than the temptations attacking the humble. And in order for you to understand this, listen to the same father, Isaac the Syrian, who says this: “But the temptations that God allows to attack those who are shameless and who are exalted in their thoughts are obvious temptations of demons that exceed the limits of the soul: deprivation of the powers of reason in them, a burning sensation of lustful thoughts allowed to attack them to humble their arrogance, quick irritability, desire to fulfill their own will, reproach with words, discord, contempt, perfect delusion of mind, blasphemy against the name of God; crazy thoughts that make you laugh when you should cry; slandering of the [proud] by people; loss of honor; derision and abuse from demons in many ways, directly and secretly; desire to mix with the world and return to it; conversations and mad gossip at every turn; seeking out constantly false prophecies; the promise of much greater things than their strength allows.”

“These are spiritual temptations. And among the bodily ones, these happen to them: bouts of pain from which they cannot get rid; conjugation and constant meetings with bad and godless people; they fall into the hands of evil people who torment them; their heart suddenly begins to beat faster with fear before God for no reason and unexpectedly; they are often attacked by a sudden anxiety; they also fall from the cliffs and from high places, breaking their body; their heart is devoid of all support coming from the divine power and from the hope of faith. And in brief, all that is impossible and that exceeds all powers, everything attacks them, and all of the things listed here are kinds of temptations of pride” [1].

Here, brother John, by the grace and with the help of God, I have given you a few testimonies from the Divine Scripture and the Holy Fathers about the great benefits of humility, from which it is clear that those spending their lives in humility do not have such great and grave temptations as enemies of God, which are the proud and arrogant people.

Therefore, my brother, we, the sinners, must constantly pray to the merciful Lord to grant us the gift of humility, so that we, until the last breath, follow the path of the humble. Because only the path of humility is smooth and quiet and gives peace to the soul in this life. The Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ teaches us this, saying: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:29).

[1] Cf.: Ibid. Word 79. P. 598-599.