The Spiritual Life and the Five Senses

Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain: A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

[The Author: Saint Nikodemos (1749-1809 A.D.) was a monk. He was the compiler/author of the 5 volume Philokalia. He re-worked Unseen Warfare. He was a compiler of the RUDDER which is still one of the Church's main sources for Canon Law. He published the works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Saint Gregory Palamas.]

"The Holy Orthodox Eastern Church of Christ resembles a large ship. Just as a ship has its captain, crew, and helm by which it is directed and guided safely to its destination, so in like manner the Holy Church of Christ has her Divine Captain, and helm by which she is guided to the desired spiritual harbor of eternal salvation. The Church can no more do without these than a ship at sea. She is likely to meet her eternal destruction without them in the same way that a ship runs the danger of disaster when deprived of them.

Her Captain is Jesus Christ and her crew the clergy and the laity; but what is her helm or rudder? It is this sacred book which embodies the Holy Tradition of the Church, namely the Sacred Canons of the Holy glorious God-bearing Fathers, as well as the invaluable interpretation and commentary of the most Holy Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain. "This book," he states, "comes after the Sacred Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments. It is a book of inspired sayings second to the first inspired sayings. It is the book of the eternal limits set by our Holy Fathers and of the laws existing unto eternity and above all laws."

This sacred book is truly the "Pedalion" ("Rudder") of helm of the one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ which throughout the ages guides her faithful children to the haven of God's heavenly Kingdom and to the inheritance and enjoyment of eternal blessings." (Editor's Foreword. The Rudder)

Setting: By the 18th century and early 19th century, Greece had been enslaved by the Ottoman Turks (Muslims) since the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. Education was restricted and limited and religious freedom was non-existent.

I.          Anthropology:

  1. Mankind as a "Macro-cosmos"= a greater world within the smaller one. Man includes in his world both the visible an invisible: we are physical and spiritual.

"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

Spiritual Counsel: "The Body as a Royal Palace"

"The body is likened to a royal palace built by the superb architectural skill of a Creator having infinite awareness, understanding and insight. This palace includes the "upper room" which is the head, the inner most chamber which is the heart: The nous (soul) must be understood as a sort of king who is upheld by the three more general powers, that of the spirit, of the nous, and of the will. This "king" is found in all parts of the body (page 68).

Saint John Damascenos stated that the soul is found is found in the whole body as fire is found in the whole of a red-hot iron. He wrote that, "the whole soul is joined to the whole body and not a part to a part, nor is the soul contained by the body, but rather it contains the body as fire contains iron" (page 68).

  1. The Soul Before and After Baptism

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with an ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

"Before Holy Baptism, the soul, being covered by the darkness of the Ancestral (Original) Sin, does not see clearly. But after Holy Baptism the soul becomes all light, reflecting the supernatural life of Divine Grace" (page 68).

  1. The Natural Attributes of our Spiritual and Physical Natures
    1. The Soul
      "The natural and essential attribute of the soul (nous), because it is soul, is to always be preoccupied with the spiritual matters related to it: because it is immaterial with the immaterial...with what is truly good and to have only these good things nourish it" (page 69).
    2. The Body
      "By contrast, the natural attribute of the body, because it is a body, is to be inclined always to the bodily things: because it is physical to the physical; because it is material to the material. In one word the body is inclined to what is only pseudo-good and has these things for nourishment, growth, life and pleasure" (page 69).
  1. The Difference Between a Rational and an Irrational Soul

"The irrational soul is led and ruled by the body and the senses, while the rational soul leads and rules the body and the senses...Man, however, being rational leads nature rather than being led by it. Thus when he would desire something, he has the authority either to overrule that desire of to follow it" (Saint John Damascenos).

  1. The Initial Purpose of the Senses:

"God has chosen to create the five senses of the body to serve as so many openings to the world around us. I am talking about the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the mouth and the common sense of touch, through which the soul can generally receive unto itself primarily spiritual nurture and pleasure" (page 70).

Wisdom of Solomon on the Creation

"From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator" (Wisdom 3:5).

Saint Paul on the Created World

"Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His Eternal Power and Deity, has been clearly perceived in the thing that have been made" (Romans 1:20).

Saint Peter on Holy Scripture

"No prophecy ever came by the impulses of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:21).

The Senses Serve to Bring us in Communion with God

II.          Spiritual Warfare

  1. Human Development Childhood

"The physical senses are complete and strong while the mind is not yet active...thus the nous, which is intended to rule, is made subservient to the senses...During the childhood period of about 15 years, when the nous (soul) is in a sort of stupor and led by the senses, the irrational and instinctive senses receive their fill of physical pleasure, as they are indulged without the restraint of reason" (page 76).

"Once the eyes become accustomed to looking passionately upon the mature beauty of living bodies; once the ear drums are accustomed to the pleasing sounds of certain songs; once the senses of smell is delighted by the fragrance of myrrh and aromatic things; once the tongue and the mouth taste or rather become accustomed to the rich and tasty foods; and finally, once the sense of touch is accustomed to fire and soft clothing-who will be able after that, even if one is most eloquent and persuasive, to convince people that what they have up to now enjoyed is not a true and rational pleasure, but on the contrary an irrational and temporal one?" (page 77).

  1. The Attacks from our Adversary (Satan)

"...but the devil himself, who rules over the carnal pleasures, in turn excites the nous and the heart, and the senses even more. The Holy Fathers have said that the devil, though bodiless, find his pleasure in enjoying the bodily pleasures of men. And metaphorically speaking, these are but the dirt and the dust that he was condemned to eat through the serpent: 'And dust you shall eat all the days of your life' (Genesis 3:14). Saint Gregory the Sinaite wrote on this point: 'Humanly speaking, because the devils lost their angelic joy and were deprived of divine pleasure, they have acquired a sort of materialistic nature through their physical passions and suffer to eat, as we do, the dust of the earth'" (page 78).

III.          The Victory

"The soul (nous) cannot continue to be a co-prisoner with the senses and a contradiction: the king becoming a slave; the ruler becoming ruled; he who by nature is self-ruled and in authority becoming the obedient subject. The soul, cannot bear to receive such harm that will gradually bring it to annihilation and to hell" (page 79).

  1. Spiritual Discipline and the Struggle for Perfection

"At first it seeks (our soul) to show that it was created by God to be the ruler and the king of the body. That is to say, it seeks through the assistance of Divine grace and all of its courage, all of its will, and all of its knowledge to uproot out of the senses of its body those longstanding and entrenched habits which they have acquired among physical things" (page 79).

  1. How are the Senses Liberated from Physical Passions and in turn placed under the Obedience of the Soul?

Spiritual Counsel:

"When a certain king plans to subdue easily an enemy city that is fortified by strong walls, he cuts off the food supplies to those people in the city and thus causes them such hardship that they in time decide to surrender themselves. The nous uses the same strategy in subduing the senses. Little by little, the nous deprives every sensory faculty of its customary bodily and pleasurable passions. It no longer permits them to indulge themselves and thus easily and in a short of time brings them under its control...By receiving a certain ease and freedom from bodily concerns, the nous turns to its own natural and spiritual nourishment which is the reading of sacred Scripture, the acquirement of virtues, the practice of prayer, the understanding of the purposes of the physical and spiritual creations, and all the other spiritual and divine thoughts and deeds which are to be found in the writings of the Holy Fathers" (page 79-80).

  1. Spiritual Counsel On True Pleasure

"The nous, now seeks purposely through the enjoyment of the immaterial and spiritual realities to uplift the body also from its physical heaviness, and in sense to make it into spirit. Saint Maximos the Confessor writes: "When the soul is attracted against its very nature toward matter through the body, it insinuates upon itself the earthly form. Knowing this, the Saints seek to move toward God through the natural tendency of the soul, while at the same time they try appropriately to familiarize the body with God through the practice of virtues, hoping thus to beautify the body with divine outward appearances" (page 80).

Please note: Saint Nikodemos reveals to all, in great detail, the needed understanding of our visible and invisible human nature. How can we fight in the Unseen Spiritual Warfare unless we are equipped with the necessary knowledge, weaponry, and resolve to triumph over evil and save our souls.

Every Lenten or Fasting period of Our Holy Church is there to assist, to teach, to encourage, to guide and to inspire those who truly believe to achieve victory over their weaknesses and all evil influence and temptations.

We are at war and therefore we must stay vigilant, alert and ready to confront the enemy.



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George