the companions and peers of despair

“Though not the only offspring of acedia, despair is the most legitimate. Saint Thomas Aquinas has assembled the filiae acediae, the companions and peers of despair, in a demonic constellation that it will be rewarding to consider for a moment… In addition to despair, acedia gives birth to that uneasy restlessness of mind that Thomas calls evagatio mentis: “No one can remain in sadness”; but since it is precisely his most inward being that causes the sadness of one who has fallen prey to acedia, the result is that such a one struggles to break out of the peace at the center of his own being.

For its part, evagatio mentis reveals itself in loquaciousness (verbositas), in excessive curiosity (curiositas), in an irreverent urge “to pour oneself out from the peak of of the mind onto many things” (importunitas), in interior restlessness (inquietudo), and in instability of place or purpose (instabilitas loci vel propositi). All these concepts that are inseparably related to “uneasy restlessness of mind” (evagatio mentis) are to be met with again in Heidegger’s analysis of “everyday existence” (which, however, is not concerned with the religious significance of acedia): “being’s flight from itself”, “loquaciousness”, “curiosity” as concern about the “possibility of abandoning oneself to the world”, “importunity”, “distraction”, “instability”.

Evagatio mentis and despair are followed by a third offspring of acedia–a sluggish indifference (torpor) toward those things that are in truth necessary for man’s salvation; it is linked by an inner necessity to the denial of man’s higher self that springs from sadness and sloth. The fourth offspring is pusillanimity (pusillanimitas) toward all the mystical opportunities that are open to man. The fifth is irritable rebellion (rancor) against all who are charged with the responsibility of preventing man’s true and divinized self from falling prey to forgetfulness, to “self-forgetfulness”. The last offspring is malitita, malice par excellence, a conscious inner choice and decision in favor of evil as evil that has its source in hatred for the divine in man” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 120-121).

Acedia and Kierkegaard

“Acedia is what Kierkegaard, in his book on despair (Sickness unto Death), has called the “despair of weakness”, which he considers a preliminary stage of despair proper and which consists in the fact that an individual ‘is unwilling, in his despair, to be himself'” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 120).

Acedia as perverted humility

“One who is trapped in acedia has neither the courage nor the will to be as great as he really is. He would prefer to be less great in order thus to avoid the obligation of greatness. Acedia is a perverted humility; it will not accept supernatural goods because they are, by their very nature, linked to a claim on him who receives them” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 119).

acedia – sadness

“According to the classical theology of the Church, acedia is a kind of sadness (“species tristitiae”) — more specifically, a sadness in view of the divine good in man. This sadness because of the God-given ennobling of human nature causes inactivity, depression, discouragement (thus the element of actual “sloth” is secondary)” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 118).

Supernatural and natural hope

“Natural hope blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers… For supernatural hope, the opposite is true: not only is it not bound to natural youth; it is actually rooted in a much more substantial youthfulness. It bestows on mankind a “not yet” that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man’s natural hope” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 110).

Hope and Christ

“The embodiment, at once symbolic and truly fundamental, of the supernatural life in man is the man Christ, “in whom dwells the fullness of the godhead”. He is also the embodiment of our hope: “Christ in you, your hope of glory!” (Col 1:27). (How does it happen that we are so prone to understand Holy Scripture in a vague approximation rather than in the precise meaning of its passages? It is due in part, perhaps, to a decline in the proper dogmatic interpretation of Scripture)” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 105-106).

Sharing of the triune life of God

“The supernatural life in man has three main currents: the reality of God, which surpasses all natural knowledge, manifests itself to faith. Love affirms–also in its own right–the Highest Good, which has become visible beneath the veil of faith. Hope is the confidently partient expectation of eternal beatitude in a contemplative and comprehensive sharing of the triune life of God; hope expects from God’s hand the eternal life that is God himself: ‘sperat Deum a Deo'” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 103).