Just as it is impossible to cross the sea without a boat, so it is impossible to repulse the provocation of an evil thought without invoking Jesus Christ. Rebuttal bridles evil thoughts, but the invocation of Jesus Christ drives them from the heart.
[…] And if our intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] is experienced, well-trained and used to guarding itself, and to examining clearly and openly the seductive fantasies and deceits of the demons, it will instantly ‘quench the fiery darts of the devil’ (cf. Eph. 6:16), counter-attacking by means of its power of rebuttal and the Jesus Prayer.
It will not allow the impassioned fantasy to consort with it or allow our thoughts passionately to conform themselves to the fantasy, or to become intimate with it, or be distracted by it, or give assent to it.
If anything like this happens, then evil actions will follow as surely as night follows day.
If our intellect is inexperienced in the art of watchfulness it at once begins to entertain whatever impassioned fantasy appears in it, and plies it with illicit questions and responds to it illicitly. Then our own thoughts are conjoined to the demonic fantasy, which waxes and burgeons until it appears lovely and delectable to the welcoming and despoiled intellect.
The intellect then is deceived in much the same way as lambs when a stray dog comes into the field in which they happen to be: in their innocence they often run towards the dog as though it were their mother, and their only profit in coming near it is that they pick up something of its stench and foulness.
In the same way our thoughts run ignorantly after demonic fantasies that appear in our intellect and, as I said, the two join together and one can see them plotting to destroy the city of Troy like Agamemnon and Menelaus. For they plot together the course of action they must take in order to bring about, in practice and by means of the body, that purpose which the demons have persuaded them is sweet and delectable.
In this way sins are produced in the soul: and hence the need to bring out into the open what is in our hearts. The intellect, being good-natured and innocent, readily goes in pursuit of lawless fantasies: and it can be restrained only on condition that its intelligence, the ruler of the passions always bridles it and holds it back.
Contemplation and spiritual knowledge are indeed the guides and agents of the ascetic life; for when the mind is raised up by them it becomes indifferent to sensual pleasures and to other material attractions, regarding them as worthless.
Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 142-146, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 186-187.
**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Hesychios and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).