There are seven dispositions in us which specially block the action of God and are hostile to the Holy; which twists our souls out of shape. Theology calls them the seven deadly sins – deadly because once they get their claws into us they tend to spiritual extinction instead of spiritual life.
- Pride, uppishness, the great instinct of self-regard. No one can see straight in religion till they get rid of that.
- Envy – an inimical, snarky attitude to others, ill-wind in all, even its most subtle and refined forms.
- Anger, the combative instinct, turbulence, emotional uproar, self-centered vehemence, the negation of Peace.
- Sloth, the opposite number of wholesome zest, the deadly spirit of slackness, fed-up-ness, “is it worth while-ness.”
- Avarice, the possessive spirit, grab and hold-tight in all its manifestations.
- Gluttony – intemperate enjoyment for its own sake of what is in reason good and allowable.
- Lust – letting our instinct and emotional nature get the upper hand and leading us, instead of our leading it, being ruled by our longings.
Now we may feel prepared to repudiate some of these on sight, as having nothing to do with ordinary civilized life. We consider that we are not envious, avaricious, wrathful, greedy. It’s not done! But it is not only our natural life that is concerned. Those tendencies are ingrained in human nature and infect the most subtle reaches of our personal and spiritual life too: they colour our prayer because genuine prayer reflects character. For they all mean at bottom three great disorders of our power of love – loving wrong things, loving too much, loving too little. Pride and avarice mean the drive of energy set towards our selves and our possessions. Lust and gluttony love too much. Sloth and envy love too little. They all turn up in our relation to the things God gives us to deal with – family, friends, work and the practice of religion.
As we wake up more towards spiritual reality and our world grows, the forms of our sinfulness probably changes. The great wrong instincts of self-importance, pugnacity, grab, self-indulgence, slackness, are still there, but gradually pass from cruder to more and more subtle forms – spiritual pride, spiritual envy, spiritual greed: these still like in wait for souls who believe they want nothing but God.
- The Mount of Purification