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Manners and traditional values as part of the struggle toward deification


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#1 Anna Stickles

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 04:39 PM

These posts are moved from another thread. If anyone is interested in this topic please feel free to join in. I recommend that Clement's Christ the Educator (link below) be used as the primary source text for this discussion

that every psychic activity carries its somatic repercussion and inversely that attitudes and movements of the body may favour, even provoke, mental states. The body, perceptibly or imper¬ceptibly, takes part in every movement of the soul—whether of feeling, of abstract thought, of volition, or even of transcendent experience.


I have been reading a catchesis for new Christians written by Clement of Alexandria in about 190 AD. (Christ the Educator or Pedagogue) It's amazing how things never change and how relevant what he has to say if for today. He address this issue, not in terms of hesychastic prayer, which is probably above all of our heads anyway, but in the practical day to day issues of self-restraint and frugality in eating, speech, dress, possessions, etc. Most of what he addresses would simply be seen as "good manners" and ignored as nothing particularly spiritual and basically unimportant by a lot of Christians today, but for Clement these issues, for the new Christian coming out of a pagan culture, were precisely the first step on our road to deification. And I think it has to do with the recognition of what is quoted above as far as the relationship of body and soul go.

He starts out his chapters on practical living with a statement about the goal "Now whenever a man is drawn by reason (logos) away from external things and even from any further concern for his body to the realm of understanding and aquires clear insight into the natural atributes of man, he will understand that he is not to be eager about external things, but to purify that which is proper to man, the eye of his soul, and to sanctify even his body."

How then do we do this? Well he doesn't start with prayer he starts with "Other men live that they may eat, just like unreasoning beasts; for them life is the belly. But as for us, our Educator has given the command that we eat only to live. ... Our food should be plain and ungarnished, in keeping with the truth, suitable to children who are plain and unpretentious, adapted to maintaining life, not self-indulgence."

He goes on to address in a very long and detailed and sometimes quite funny manner the necessity for simplicity, frugality balance and self-control in our eating. The next chapter is about the moderate use of drink. He covers the need for decorous behavior, and restraint and propriety in speech. He covers listening to chaste music rather then something sensuous or that excites the passions. He goes on to talk about self-control in social situations - neither guffawing nor giggling, but having "good humor that is self-contained." "It is well that even the smile be kept under the influence of the Educator." He even addresses how to sneeze politely. Throughout his instructions one sees then the ongoing themes of good will toward our neighbor and self-restraint over all thing in our bodily actions as being the beginning of the Christian life.

These things in fact became so ingrained in Christian culture that we now hardly think of them in their Christian context, for us they are merely empty manners from the "old days". But here in Clement we see how they got their beginning and why they were considered important.

Our culture is in the process of rejecting everything that Christianity had once built into it as irrelevant. And now "being real" with our friends or family means, not self-restraint, hospitality and good will, but rather acting out on whatever we happen to think or feel. As this happens, I think that this whole understanding that Clement is teaching really needs to be regained.

If we have not first developed these bodily and mental "postures" that ought to be proper to even to every Christian laymen, why are we discussing postures appropriate to higher levels of prayer?

Quotes are from Christ the Educator, by Clement of Alexandria, CUA press, Father of the Church series vol 23 the link is to the google book online. His humor is very engaging. Quotes are from bk 2, ch 1 (starts pg 93)



#2 Anna Stickles

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 04:40 PM

Here is a continuation of the previous conversation

Thanks for the post Anna and wonderful comments about Clement of Alexandria. It is unfortunate that he is so little known nowadays by us. As you point out he would be a wonderful antidote to current ways of seeing and living life.

Your added point about his basic insight of what adds up to a Christian culture on its most basic level is also very important I think. Very often as Orthodox Christians we take hesychast ideals and think to apply them to our own lives. On the level of the inner life this has a real and important point to it- for example in the areas of humility, inner vigilance, discernment, etc-but it still leaves us with little idea of how to live an Orthodox life on the day to day & practical level. In fact it is striking nowadays how often one ends up advising people in terms of struggle & vigilance for example- but never yet has the question arisen of how to create the Orthodox household! It is as if we feel along with the rest of our culture, that these areas are 'too personal' to really open up to the Church, or to engage with on a practical level.

Clement then provides a major insight into how Christian culture, the culture which revealed its evident power by still existing into recent times, first came to be within the Church and was formed then amidst the larger society. Basically it shows that the 'energy centres' all Christians were called to promote, were the manners, habits, and gestures they adopted so that every single act- whether applied to how we eat and sleep, or to a smile or a sneeze- embodies the Christian virtues of modesty, frugality, self restraint, and balance.

If we beleive then that body, soul and spirit all interact with and effect each other, then certainly we should begin to take a much closer look as this area.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael



#3 Anna Stickles

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 04:43 PM

Here is the next post in the series

What I see is that, at least here in the West, this whole struggle for good manners, etc. was taken out of its Christian context. Christian dogma prior to and during the Reformation had lost touch with the connection between body and soul and the understanding of the path to deification. In conjunction with this it lost touch with the inner Christian content of the struggle for good manners. What we see in modern culture is that good manners then fell into the context of being practiced for secular and self-serving purpose - for the sake of self-respect and reputation, etc. We see this in the ideal of the "gentleman". Somewhere along the way the falsity in this became evident and people started to rebel. The post-modern ideal of "authenticity" became pre-eminent, in which to be real means to express whatever one's current feelings and thoughts are, and manners are somehow "fake" because they is being used to hide how we "really feel" inside. One's one's emotions and thoughts became the sole reality, and the validation of self.

The beauty in Clement then is that he brings this whole issue of manners back into its Christian context. But I think that its important to be clear - in and of itself manners are not the issue. St Paul says that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we must do it all for the glory of God. Clement himself does not start his treaty with these practical matters of living. He starts with making sure we understand that we are children undergoing and education by Christ.

"As there is one sort of training for philosophers, another for oraters and another for wrestlers, so too, there is an excellent disposition imparted by the education of Christ that is proper to the free will loving the good. As for deeds, walking, reclining at table, eating and sleeping, marriage relations and the manner of life, the whole of man's education all become illustrious as holy deeds under the influence of the Educator. The education he gives is not over strained, but in harmony with man's needs. That is why the Word is called saviour, because he has left men remedies of reason to effect understanding and salvation, and because, awaiting the favorable opportunity, He corrects evil, diagnoses the cause for passions, extracts the rrots of unreasonable lusts, advises what we should avoid, and applies all remedies of salvation to those who are sick. bk 1 ch 12"



In the next chapter He goes on to talk about the fact that obedience to Christ councils guide us to our proper end, rest in God and continues.

"But that which is done in service of God fulfills in deeds the duty imposed on it. Therefore, duty consists not in words but in actions. But the deed of a Christian soul is the work of its reason accomplished by means of its friend and companion the body, obeying the dictate of an educated judgement and of a desire for the truth. But man's duty is to cultivate a will that is in conformity and united throughout his life to God and Christ, properly directed to eternal life. Indeed, the life of the Christian in which we are now being educated, is a united whole made up of deeds controlled by reason; or rather the persevering accomplishment of the truths taught by reason which we call fidelity." bk 1 ch 13, p. 90-91



In other words our service to God, our Christian duty, consists in allowing Christ to bring us to have the right inner disposition of a free will engaged in obeying Him, but this must be accompanied by deeds of bodily discipline, including good manners and self restraint.

The practice of bodily discipline in manners, habits of self-restraint, gestures, etc. for the sake of our own glory or out of self-love, in obedience to our own fallen will, is not Christian. But the Christian who is attempting to follow Christ while ignoring His education of our bodily actions, treating them as a matter of indifference, will be out of synch with their Educator and the course of study He has appointed for us.



#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 02:02 PM

In my experience and observation, this also means that our body can actually tell us when we are off track morally and spiritually, if we will pay attention to it. And that sometimes it is a more reliable guide than conscience or intellect.

#5 Rick H.

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 02:15 PM

. . . every psychic activity carries its somatic repercussion and inversely that attitudes and movements of the body may favour, even provoke, mental states. The body, perceptibly or imper¬ceptibly, takes part in every movement of the soul—whether of feeling, of abstract thought, of volition, or even of transcendent experience.



In my experience and observation, this also means that our body can actually tell us when we are off track morally and spiritually, if we will pay attention to it. And that sometimes it is a more reliable guide than conscience or intellect.


A good example of the benefits of simple awareness.

I wonder if the opposite is true?

#6 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 03:51 PM

In my experience and observation, this also means that our body can actually tell us when we are off track morally and spiritually, if we will pay attention to it. And that sometimes it is a more reliable guide than conscience or intellect.


Owen, no where in the Scriptures or the Fathers have I read anything that would support this, in fact that opposite. Everywhere I see that God gave us a conscience as the faculty of moral discernment. Yes, it is true that in a darkened soul, the conscience will also be darkened and blind. But in that case since it is the soul that transmits grace to the body, then I would assume that the body itself would be in just as dark a state.

In the lives of the saints one sees that indeed the body receives some amount of grace as the soul is enlightened, but generally, at least from my reading, this is harder to gain and easier to lose. The redemption of the soul is something that can happen to a very large degree in our current state for those who have the love, humility and courage for this, however the redemption of the body is mostly something we look forward to in the age to come. The other thing I have consistent seen in the ascetic literature is that just as Satan has some amount of influence over the mind, even more so over the body.

Maybe some illnesses and aching muscles are due to sin, but since many of the saints were very sick this doesn't seem real reliable, and I certainly can't think you are suggesting that bodily pleasure is a reliable indication that we are in God's good graces. So by and large it seems to me a pretty inaccurate indicator, subject to a lot of error.


I think that to have a good discussion on this topic, people are going to have to be willing to take the time to read and think about the text I linked above.

#7 Rick H.

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 04:52 PM

I dunno Anna . . . I think we can tie this in very easily. :) What happens in your body when you are typing a post to someone and you know you are being rude to them while you are typing?

The body, perceptibly or imper¬ceptibly, takes part in every movement of the soul—whether of feeling, of abstract thought, of volition, or even of transcendent experience.


What happens to your heart rate, your breathing? Does your stomach feel loose and good or does it feel tight and there is some discomfort? How is choosing to leave what we know as being good manners (and be rude to someone) while typing a post on Monachos going to effect your body as it relates to things like anxiety, this is how I read Owen's post in light of the Bloom quote you provided above.

Along this same train of thought, do the Scriptures or Fathers say anything about this presented postively, in terms of peace (the presence or absence of peace)? When we choose to be non-polemic and promote peace and grace into our lives and into the lives of those around us (online or in the 'real world'), what happens to our bodies then in terms of our breathing, heart rate, etc?

But, then I have just made a distinction between online manners (and interpersonal communication) and the real world/face-to-face manners (and interpersonal communication).

Other factors here are various cultures and backgrounds. What is rude for one culture is not rude at all from another culture . . . this ranges from the guy down south I purchased a few gun dogs from and who wears the stars and bars on his cowboy hat to other's I have met from Mediterranean countries, and elsewhere. There are some I have met from Syria and Italy who can't stand our manners as it relates to being politically correct and hiding what we really think, these are offended because we have such good manners. For some, if you are not direct then you are "talking out the side of your mouth." I become offended when I think poeple are talking out the side of their mouth to me, even in posts here where somehow it is more polite to disguise or say what one wants to another under the guise of talking to a generic person and in this sense supposedly excercising 'good manners' just as written above (for 'Christian purposes') in the texts you have cited.

I think it is a good point to consider what your body is telling you when you are typing a post, for example, and you know you are being rude . . . if we are aware of it, in this specific example, our body is saying very clearly that we are off track, off base morally/spiritually. No spiritual discernment is needed for this.

Some things we don't need to find in the Fathers or Scriptures for them to be true.

Edited by Rick H., 06 August 2012 - 05:21 PM.


#8 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 08:43 PM

Rick, I wasn't addressing the fact of whether or not our body can tell us something. I agree that if your conscience is bothering you, yes there can be a physical component to this, and if your soul is at peace the body will be more at peace too. What I was primarily addressing was Owen's last statement - that the body is a more reliable indicator then the conscience.

The body won't react if the conscience is not already bothered, and sometimes our conscience can be bothered without it effecting us physically, or at least we won't notice any physical manifestations of it. So it is always the conscience which first realizes the sin and then transmits this to the body, it is never the body which detects sin on its own that the conscience has missed.

If what Owen is saying in his last sentence is not that the body detects sin that the conscience doesn't, but rather that we at times notice the physical reaction before noticing the internal state of our soul, then ok, I can see this as being true, but certainly it is not the ideal. We should be more aware of our internal state, then our body, yes?

#9 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 08:55 PM

Also Rick, If you will read the book that I linked above you will see that what you are presenting here as "manners" has little to do with what Clement is talking about. He is basically talking about self-control, frugality, hospitality and good will toward others, simplicity, propriety (not in a cultural sense but in the sense of what is proper according to who we are as human beings), and prudence in all our actions as a way of living and being.

As part of our Christian effort I think we should try not to become offended at all, or assume that someone is being two faced, or entertain suspicions or bad thoughts about people Of course even when I try, I do not always succeed, but I think it is a good goal, at the very least this is the goal the Church gives us.

#10 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 09:16 PM

When we choose to be non-polemic and promote peace and grace into our lives and into the lives of those around us (online or in the 'real world'), what happens to our bodies then in terms of our breathing, heart rate, etc?


Here is what Clement says about promoting peace.

"If we meet at banquets for charity's sake and if the purpose of such feasts is goodfellowship created among the guests, with the food and drink merely accessories of charity, then should we not maintain a behavior that bespeaks control of reason? ...And if we gather with the intention of showing good-will toward one another, then why do we stir up ill will by railing at others? It is beter to keep silent than to engage in bickering, adding the fault of deed to (the interior disposition) of boorishness. Surely blessed is the man that hath not slipped by a word of his mouth and is not pricked with the remorse of sin, or at least has repented of the sins committed in speech, or has conversed without inflicting pain on anyone." p. 140

I guess we might say that remorse probably has a physical component, and certainly sensitivity and keeping of the peace seems to be what he is promoting here, but he doesn't really talk about the physical component of this.

He does specifically mention peace later on. "Do not let quarrelsomeness with its love of empty victory creep into our midst, for our aim is the elemination of all discord. Surely this is the meaning of the expression: "Peace be to you." p. 144

He sums up this chapter on the next page with a quote I really like.

"Let the gaze be composed, and the movement of the head and gestures be steady, as well as the motion of the hands in conversation. In general the Christian is by nature, a man of gentleness and quite, serenity and peace." p. 146

So you can see that all this is very straight forward and simple and basic to our human nature, not "white gloves" or whatever other extras might be added to a given culture's ideas of politeness (although I do not think these are necessarily something bad, but rather something to be respected in as much as they fit with our calling to be a Christian, it is just that they are not core)

#11 Rick H.

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 09:20 PM

Anna, I followed the link for the book the other day and it took me to a preview of the book with a few pages per chapter. I tried to read what was there but, what was there was disjointed in this format, not easy to read and what I could see wasn't keeping my interest.

Is there a link for the book as a whole . . . or is this something that I have to purchase maybe?

I guess I need to read the book, but I am kind of confused about what we are doing here.

#12 Rick H.

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 09:29 PM

Rick, I wasn't addressing the fact of whether or not our body can tell us something. I agree that if your conscience is bothering you, yes there can be a physical component to this, and if your soul is at peace the body will be more at peace too. What I was primarily addressing was Owen's last statement - that the body is a more reliable indicator then the conscience.


I know Owen prefaced his statement with "in my experience" . . . and this is what I am doing now too, in my experience my body is more reliable than my conscience. Still using the example of making posts on monachos, I might be making a post and laughing as I make it with a clear conscience . . . but after I hit the reply button I realize my body is telling me that it was not a genuine good humor laughter that I was experiencing but it was a less than good humor and innocent laughter. In this sense the body trumps the consciense and is more accurate.

Maybe this is part of the problem 'some' have with Orthodox writing, it is written for the most part, it seems to me, like it applies to everyone in every situation, and sometimes there is disagreement on principles but somehow both are correct, but we know that often times principles laid down do not apply to everyone at a given time--and at the end of the day what do you really have. (I know that was a mouthful and vague, but I believe it to be true). You know Anna kind of like good stuff you have shared with me before (and recently), I read it and hope it applies but not sure if it does at a given point in my life, and on this when there is ambiquity on one hand and experience on the other guess which one is the trump card everytime? I don't know if that makes any sense at all? It's probably clear as mud.

I guess I'll quit while I'm behind . . .

PS I just checked out the link again and I think I'm seeing where I need to pay $20.00 for the ebook. From the previews of this book that I read I don't think this is going to happen. I'll try to stay out of this thread so I don't mess it up anymore than I already have.

Edited by Rick H., 06 August 2012 - 09:46 PM.





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