Why do we do things we know are wrong? Why do witness the destruction of ourselves and others and feel helpless to the feelings and emotions that drive our bad behavior?
The ultimate battle is the one we fight for our soul, all else in life is dependent on the outcome of this struggle. As St. Basil wrote sometime in the 4th Century:
“You have dominion over every kind of savage beast. But, you will say, do I have savage beasts within me? Yes, many of them. It is even an immense crowd of savage beasts that you carry within yourself. Do not take this as an insult. Is not anger a small wild beast that barks in your heart? Is it not more savage than the first dog that comes? And is not the trickery that crouches in a treacherous soul more ferocious than the bear of the caverns?
What kind of savage beast do we not have within us?
You were created to have dominion; you are the master of the passions, the master of savage beasts, the master of servants, the master of birds.
Be master of the thoughts within you in order to become master of all beings. Thus, the power which was given us through living beings prepares us to exercise dominion over ourselves.”
It is seductive to look outside ourselves for easy answers, but power lies within us. We won’t be wise parents, kind neighbors, or thoughtful human beings if we don’t exercise our free will to control the demons within us. How can we look after the beasts that live outside us if we cannot control those lurking in our souls?
I can’t give you an easy solution. It is a process, and a long one. Yet, it is on this journey that we can begin to understand and unveil the light within us granted to us by the divine. To find “the likeness of God” and ultimate control over our passions we must commit ourselves to facing our inner demons. I began long ago on a 23-month motorcycle trip started when I was lost and in despair. During this time I read the book, “The Way of the Pilgrim” and realized the road of the pilgrim was one that we were all on whether we liked it or not. In a savage world, the wildest thing we must learn to control is our own soul.
To get you started, I’ll leave you with a few great quotes from “The Way of the Pilgrim” that impacted me greatly. May it firm your steps and fill your sails as you journey to tame your own beast and in doing so find a lasting peace and purpose.
“The trouble is that we live far from ourselves and have but little wish to get any nearer to ourselves. Indeed we are running away all the time to avoid coming face to face with our real selves, and we barter the truth for trifles.”
“I told him that the soul could be freed from sinful thoughts only by guarding the mind and cleansing the heart and that this could be done by interior prayer. I added that according to the holy Fathers, one who performs saving works simply from the fear of hell follows the way of bondage, and one who does the same just in order to be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven follows the path of a bargainer with God. The one they call a slave, the other a hireling. But God wants us to come to him as children to their father. He wants us to behave ourselves honorably from love for him and zeal for his service. He wants us to find our happiness in uniting ourselves with him in a saving union of mind and heart.”