“suppose there were a very great palace, and this were deserted, and became full of every evil smell, and of many dead bodies. Well the heart is Christ’s palace. And it is full of uncleanness, and of crowds of many wicked spirits. It must be refounded and rebuilt, and its store-chambers and bedrooms put in order; for their Christ the King, with the angels and holy spirits, come to rest, and to dwell, and to walk in it, and to set his kingdom. I tell you it is like a ship furnished with plenty of tackle, where the captain disposes of all, and sets them their tasks. … The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which is ever judging us. … The heart contains many natural faculties bound up with it, and it is the mind and conscience which chides and guides the heart. …
“From the time that Adam transgressed the commandment, the serpent entered and made himself master of the house, and became like a second soul beside the soul. For the Lord says, Whoso denieth not himself and hateth not his own soul, is not my disciple. … Sin entering into the soul has become like a member of it, and is united with the bodily man, and therefore many unclean thoughts spring up in the heart.” ~St. Macarius the Egyptian
A Ruined Palace
Decades ago, when I was in the Army and stationed in Germany, I visited with friends several ruined castles. It was sad to see these ancient buildings that undoubtedly took much work to build, crumbling and being the homes now of bats, snakes and worms. But there are other castles there, such as the one in Heidelberg, that have been kept up and are still functioning in one way or another. Some have been made into museums. Others are public buildings such as libraries. One of my army friends was married in Heidelberg castle, and I attended a fasching party there. Some smaller towns and cities are making an attempt to restore these old castles and palaces. But no one would hold a wedding or a party in ruins full of snakes, rats, and bugs. The vermin and filth have to be cleaned out first.
But St. Macarius wasn’t talking about actual castles or palaces. He was talking about the allegorical palace within us, which he calls the heart. This “heart”, however, is not the physical organ that pumps blood. What many spiritual writers mean when they talk about the heart is the Divine Soul.
Another mistake many make is in believing this “heart” can become corrupt, dirty, full of sin and filth. It can’t. If it did, that would make God corrupt and rotten because that soul is a part of God and linked to the Whole of God. What does happen is that the divine soul remains dormant and the mind becomes corrupt and full of vermin and dead bodies. Dead bodies in the form or false beliefs. Vermin in the form of fears and bad habits.
So in order to prepare our castle for Christ or God, we need to clean it as much as possible. We need to get rid of fears and phobias. We need to take an honest look at our beliefs and open ourselves to the possibility that many of them are partially or completely false. If we believe that one church is the only true church, we need to seriously take an honest look at its history, and at other churches that we have accepted as false only because someone told us they were. If we think we are too old to change our ways, we need to study the history of people who have made drastic changes in their lives when they were in their fifties, sixties, or even seventies. We need to travel, if possible, to other countries and places where people have different beliefs. Then look at those people and see that they are really not significantly different than those people in our home town. We need to simply keep repeating to ourselves that we are open to new ideas, new truths.
The best thing we can do to clean the heart/soul is take in the spiritual light that rejects all filth, all darkness. That light is around us all the time, but we only absorb it if we make ourselves ready for it.
A Tale of Two Souls
St. Macarius says that Satan enters us and becomes “ like a second soul beside the soul.” This is why so much spiritual writing seems confused about the soul. One says the spirit is good, but the soul is evil. Another says the opposite. But it is because of their being two souls that there is so much confusion.
Satan doesn’t have to enter us. He is there all along. While we dwell in the realm of matter and have a physical body, we are just as much children of the Demiurge (Satan, fallen angels) as we are the children of God. So we don’t just have something like a second soul, we have two souls. One is called the mundane soul, and it is associated with the physical body, the mind, and the Demiurge. It is this soul that can become corrupt and need cleansing. The other soul, the true soul, is the Divine Soul that is a gift from God. This divine soul, as already mentioned, does not become corrupt or full of sin. But it is dormant when we come into the physical world. The primary purpose of most spiritual schools is to teach us how to awaken that Divine Soul and make it full conscious, fully functional. Then those schools help us continue to develop our spiritual faculties so they become stronger then and take control from, our physical faculties of the mind and mundane soul. So let’s all start cleaning out palace now.
If you wish to delve a bit more into the two souls concept, here are links to some older posts about them: