Dark Night of the Soul, Lenten Observance, Day 8, 2013

Ch. VI: Of the imperfections with respect to spiritual gluttony.

In this chapter, St. John suggests that one area that a lot of people fall into is that of spiritual gluttony. They get so excited by the spiritual exercises that they become an end unto themselves, and people engage in them to get some sort of high from doing them rather than with a view to submitting to God. In some cases people harm themselves – a person given to fasting can take it to extremes. I seem to recall that St. Bernard of Clairvaux, as a young monk, seems to have given in to such excess and he largely ruined his stomach (he had stomach problems for a lot of his life). And there are times where spiritual leaders give guidance which involves engaging in spiritual practices more moderately, and those given to gluttony in such matters put their own pleasure ahead of justly following the advice of their leaders (but didn’t St. John himself stand up to some of the leaders in the Carmelites when he pushed for reform? He was imprisoned by his brothers, but he did not take their concerns as advice to follow, but assumed he was right and they were wrong – how is that different from the spiritual gluttons?).
St. John also mentions dabblers, who like to try all sorts of spiritual practice, but don’t work them very deeply. When the going gets tough, they move on to another exercise. That following of the shiny object – that I get. I find myself somewhat guilty of it – just one more book, or one more film, or one more computer program, or something else. Very much the monkey mind.

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