The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 9:

Something else from which the intellect must be guarded
that it might discern rightly.

The other thing from which we ought to defend the intellect is curiosity. By filling it with harmful, vain and impertinent thoughts, we render it unable to apprehend that which most appertains to true mortification and perfection. For this reason you must be in every aspect as a dead person to every unnecessary investigation of earthly things, even be they licit.

Always restrict your intellect when you can, and love to make a fool of it. The latest novelties and the vicissitudes of the world, both great and small, should matter as much to you as if they did not transpire. If they are offered to you, oppose yourself to them and drive them far away from you. In your desire to know of heavenly things be sober and humble, desiring to know nothing more than Christ crucified (see 1 Cor. 2.2; Gal. 6.14; 1 Cor. 1:23), his life and death and what he asks of you. Distance yourself from all the rest, and you will do something very pleasing to God, who considers dear and beloved those who desire and seek from him those things that suffice for loving his divine goodness and doing his will. Every other question and research is self-love, pride and deception of the demon.

If you follow these norms, you will be able to flee many traps. The astute serpent sees that in those who care for the spiritual life the will is stalwart and strong, so he tries to assault their intellect, thereby mastering former in mastering the latter. He is therefore accustomed to give them high, vivid and extravagant sentiments; and he grants them as much as is possible to persons who are acute and of great ingenuity and who are easy to raise to pride. This way, occupied in sin and in the meditation of those points in which they falsely persuade themselves to enjoy God, they forget to purify their hearts and to look to the knowledge of oneself and to true mortification. So entrapped in the snare of pride, they make an idol of their very intellect. From this it follows without their noticing, that bit by bit they convince themselves they no longer need others' advice or direction, as they are already accustomed in every eventuality to run to the idol of their own judgment.

This is a matter of great danger, of which it is very difficult to cure oneself. Pride of the intellect is more dangerous than pride of the will: if pride of the will should manifest itself to the intellect, it could easily cure it in one day by obeying whom one ought. But one who has a firm opinion that one's understanding is better than that of others -- from whom, and how, can one be cleaned? How can one submit oneself to the judgment of others, which one does not hold to be as good as one's own? If the intellect is ill, this eye of the soul with which one ought to recognize and purify the wound of the proud will; if it is blind and full of the same pride, who can cure it? And if the light becomes shadows and the law fails, what becomes of the rest?

For this reason you should spend some time placing yourself against such dangerous pride, before it penetrates down to your bone barrow. Blunt the sharpness of your intellect: be easy to submit your understanding to that of others; become mad with love for God and you will be wiser than Solomon.

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