Erotic Dreams and Nightmares from Antiquity to the Present (Charles Stewart, 2002)

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NOTE: This article is excerpted from the The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 279-309

http://historia.up.krakow.pl/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Erotic-Dreams-and-Nightmares-from-Antiquity-to-the-Present.pdf

 

The Mixed Dream

st-justin-martyr-3

Early Christian preachers such as Justin Martyr assimilated all of the pagan gods to ‘demons’ under the control of the Devil (Pagels 1988: 42). According to pagan cosmology, demons were not intrinsically evil, but they were biddable. The magical papyri of the last centuries BCE and first centuries CE reveal how people sought, through ritual incantations, to command demons to carry dreams to others. In one particular example, a man named Hermeias exhorts the demons to cause his unresponsive object of desire to lust for him, even when she is ‘drinking, working, conversing, sleeping, dreaming, having an orgasm in her dreams, until she is scourged by you and comes desiring me.1

Granted the prevailing association of demons with dreams in popular thought, Christians were counselled to distrust their sleeping visions as possibly satanic. Dreams thus came to be placed squarely on the negative side of a morally polarized universe. John Climacus, whose Ladder of divine ascent synthesized the ascetic tradition and became a handbook for monks, wrote: ‘Devils often take on the appearance of angels of light or martyrs and they appear to us in sleep and talk to us … And if we start to believe in the devils of our dreams, then we will be their playthings when we are also awake’ (Climacus, Ladder, 3).

Beginning with Tertullian, the Church Fathers held that dreams could come variously from God, the Devil or the Soul (Tertullian, On the soul, 47). This tripartite scheme was apparently adapted from pre-Christian philosophical traditions. A look at the third-century BCE Alexandrian physician Herophilus’ classification of dreams reveals that the erotic dream figured centrally in the transition from paganism to Christianity:

“Herophilus says that some dreams are inspired by a god and arise by necessity, while others are natural ones and arise when the soul forms for itself an image (eidolon) of what is to its own advantage and of what will happen next; and still others are mixed (synkra-matikoi) and arise spontaneously (ek tou automatou) according to the impact of the images, whenever we see what we wish, as happens in the case of those who in their sleep make love to the women they love.”2

Herophilus
Greek physician Herophilus, considered to be the father of human anatomy, was accused of conducting live dissections of some 600 prisoners.

The interesting part of this scheme is the third, or mixed category. In so far as people see what they inwardly desire in these dreams, they seem identical to enypnia – the physical state dreams discussed earlier.3 Yet, this identification cannot be correct, since Herophilus pointedly differentiates them from the category of dreams produced exclusively by the soul. Mixed dreams have an exogenous element; they result from outside forces – the impact of images on the sleeper. These images happen to coincide with internal desires.

Herophilus’ mixed dream, with its ready erotic exemplification, corresponded to the demonic dream in the Christian tripartite system (von Staden 1989: 310). Early ascetic theories of human nature and psychology reveal how monks understood demons to inspire erotic dreams. These accounts, presented by writers such as Evagrius and Cassian, possibly illuminate what Herophilus intended by the mixed dream. Certainly they take us deeper into the genesis of the erotic nightmare.

Evagrius

For Evagrius, who became a monk in Egypt around 382 CE, demons could manipulate an individual’s previously acquired, emotionally charged memories to excite the passions, and set sinful thoughts in train. Thus evil thoughts were simultaneously exogenous and endogenous; demons activated what was already there. Evagrius conceded that disturbing thoughts would inevitably occur, even in the course of monastic life – such thoughts were part of the human condition. Sin set in only if one mentally entertained a thought for too long. As he expressed it: ‘It is not up to us whether evil thoughts might trouble the soul or leave it in peace. What does depend on us is whether they linger or not, and whether they set the passions in motion or not’ (Praktikos, 6). The goal was inner stillness, which Evagrius referred to by the familiar Stoic term, apatheia (Guillaumont 1971: 98ff.).

Evagrius named eight primary demons, the model for what would become the ‘seven deadly sins’ in Western Christianity. Each of these demons normally attacked only one of the two vulnerable parts of the soul, the high-spirited or the sensual. Predictably, the demon of fornication (porneia) attacked the sensual part of the soul. According to Evagrius “it compels one to desire ‘remarkable’ bodies; it violently attacks those living in abstinence in order to cause them to quit, convinced they will amount to nothing. And, soiling the soul, it inclines it to ‘those acts’ [obscene acts]. It causes monks to speak and hear things, as if some object were visible and present” (Praktikos, 8).

As this passage shows, the battle with demons spilled over into the realm of dreams and (other) hallucinations where the power of the will to resist demons was weakest. Although demons could provoke erotic dreams and nightmares, these were normally two distinct types of dream (Praktikos, 21, 22, 54). The phenomenon of an erotic nightmare required a fusion of demonic domains that contravened the normal division. In such dreams the sensual part of the soul joined forces with the irascible to overwhelm the intellect. It was the opposite of Plato’s ideal scenario of self-mastery where the intellect and the high spirits co-operated to overpower the appetitive part. In Evagrius’ psychology the erotic nightmare was not excluded but rather given a powerful theorization. It was the exception that confirmed the rule.4 The erotic dream was a mixed dream then, not only because external demons aroused internal thoughts, but also because it simultaneously affected the two parts of the soul.

st-john-cassian

If dreams were, indeed, controllable, then anyone who experienced an erotic dream was potentially culpable. John Cassian excused nocturnal emissions if they occurred to someone with a full stomach (Cassian, Conferences, 12.2). In such cases they were a simple physical fact of the body, and he allowed that it was ‘natural’ for emissions to occur as often as every two months, although three times a year was a more acceptable frequency (Cassian, Institutions, 6.20; Conferences, 2.23).

 

The sinfulness of erotic dreams and nocturnal emissions continued to be a topic of debate in ascetic ‘anthropology’- as patristic theories of human nature and psychology are sometimes known – throughout the Middle Ages in both the Eastern and Western Churches (Elliott 1999; Fogen 1998). Excusable nocturnal emissions became sinful erotic dreams if one entertained them, allowed them to linger, and, most importantly, if one consented to them (Elliott 1999: 20). The way to fight the images and sensations of the mixed dream was to sever them with the knife of the will, withholding assent so that externally instigated images did not connect with bodily passions. Nocturnal emissions unaccompanied by visual imagery indicated spiritual progress (Evagrius, Praktikos, 55; Angelidi forthcoming).

From the Monastery to the World

The account developed to this point presents the views of learned texts representing the ideas and practices of elite, free men in antiquity and a narrow subsection of monks and high clerics in the early Christian period. Their practices of self-cultivation may not have been shared by very many of their contemporaries, but their influence on subsequent generations has been enormous. If the ancient Greek ethic of self-moderation was explicitly elitist, the Christian ethic became increasingly unified in conception and intended for all – men and women, young and old alike. I turn now to consider how the ascetically influenced Christian ethic of self diffused to the population at large and how the Christian laity was conditioned to view the erotic dream as dangerous and nightmarish.

Incubus, 1870
Incubus, 1870

In popular vocabulary the word incubus, as we saw, gave people a ready label for the erotic nightmare.5 In the wake of Augustine’s writings about concupiscence and original sin, the general term for demonic interference in a dream, ‘inlusio‘ (illusion), came to have automatically erotic overtones in succeeding generations (Elliott 1999: 20). Likewise, the term ‘phantasma‘, which Aristotle had used interchangeably with phantasia to mean a ‘mental perception, image, or representation’, came to mean a distorted – usually by demons – mental representation (Schmitt 1999: 278). If normal sensory perceptions were like water that flowed through a person, then memories could be likened to water that was stored and which remained clear. Phantasmata, on the other hand, were like stagnant water that had become cloudy, rank, and overgrown with algae.

How did these developments affect popular views of these matters? Certainly the laity were not expected to live up to the ascetic standards of the monks – this would have meant the extinction of Christian society – nor were they necessarily concerned by, or even able to comprehend, the high-flown arguments of theology. People in the world no doubt continued to have extra-marital sexual relations, dreams, erotic dreams, nocturnal emissions, and nightmares. But the Church did make attempts to regulate these phenomena. Early penitential books such as the Irish penitential of Cummean, composed in the seventh century after the model of Cassian’s rules for monks, represented one such effort. This penitential is notable for its comprehensive distinctions among erotic deeds and thoughts.

“He who merely desires in his mind to commit fornication, but is not able, shall do penance for one year … He who is willingly polluted during sleep, shall rise and sing nine psalms in order, kneeling … He who desires to sin during sleep, or is unintentionally polluted, fifteen psalms; he who sins but is not polluted, twenty-four” (Bieler 1963: 115;Asad 1993: 101).

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens

The dissemination of prayer formulas comprised another area for ascetic influ-ence on the development of mainstream Christianity. The expanding practice of bedtime prayers is of particular interest here (Le Goff 1988: 225). Early in the fifth century CE, Prudentius composed a hymn before sleep that included the following lines: ‘If a man’s stains of guilty conduct are few and far between, him the clear and flashing light teaches secret things; but he who has polluted and befouled his heart with sins is the sport of many a fear and sees fright-ful visions’ (Daily round 6.49). And it concluded with the following exorcistic entreaty: ‘The cross drives out every sin; before the cross darkness flees away; consecrated with this sign, the spirit cannot be unquiet. Away, away with the monstrosities of rambling dreams! Away with the deceiver and his persistent guile!’ (Daily round 6.133).

Between the fifth and thirteenth centuries, the Church’s mode of eliciting and forgiving lay sins altered. Initially, there was the brutally demanding office of penance in which the penitent was excluded from the worshipping com-munity (Asad 1993: 100). This person’s sins and their on-going punishment were socially apparent. The practice of individual, private confession to a cleric gradually replaced penance until the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), when it was made mandatory for all. Later, the Protestants identified compulsory confession to lascivious clerics as a practice that increased rather than decreased general sexual excitation. In the reformed Church confession would have no place. Each individual would be responsible for his or her own actions in the face of God. This was not an easy option, but rather the beginning of an in-worldly asceticism. In Weber’s famous formulation, asceticism ‘now … strode into the market-place of life, slammed the door of the monastery behind it, and undertook to penetrate just that daily routine of life with its methodicalness, to fashion it into a life in the world, but neither of nor for this world’ (1991 [1904-5]: 154).

CompendiumMaleficarumEngraving15
Woodcut from the Malleus maleficarum

Just as the new order of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations got underway in the sixteenth century, so, too, did the witch-hunts. The judicial system became a means to contravene the new space of private conscience that the reformers had begun to stake out. Officials asserted greater power than ever to interrogate individuals about their inner thoughts, convictions, and fantasies. These witch trials frequently involved accusations that men and women attended sabbaths at which they had sex with the Devil. The witch-hunting manuals developed an elaborate picture of incubi that attacked women and succubi that copulated with men. According to the Malleus maleficarum (Kramer & Sprenger 1970 [1486]: 41 ff.), such erotic episodes occurred more frequently to women since they were more feeble, credulous, and less self-controlled than men.

These various developments continue the story of erotic dreams and self-control begun in antiquity, a contention that emerges more clearly if we closely consider the tenth-century Canon episcopi (Lea 1939: 38; Russell 1972: 292). This text urged priests to eradicate demonic sorcery from their parishes. It also alerted clerics that some women, ‘seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons (daemonumi llusionibuse t phantasmatibusse ductae), believe themselves, in the hours of night, to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of the pagans’ (Lea 1939: 178). In such cases, priests were instructed to teach that these beliefs were false delusions of the Devil. The Canon episcopi conceded that women did undergo demonic molestation but only ‘in their spirits’ (cum solus eius spiritus). The problem, from the Church’s point of view, was the exuberant folk credulity aroused by these tales, and the laity’s apparent inability to distinguish imagined from real experiences. Thus the Canon episcopi emphasized that:

“[w]hile the spirit alone endures this [demonic manipulation], the faithless mind thinks these things happen not in the spirit, but in the body. Who is there that is not led out of himself in dreams and nocturnal vision, and sees much when sleeping that he has never seen when waking? Who is so stupid and foolish as to think that all these things which are only done in spirit happen in the body …” (Lea 1939: 179).

The text of the canon Episcopi in Hs. 119 (Cologne), a manuscript of Decretum Burchardi dated to ca. 1020.
The text of the canon Episcopi in Hs. 119 (Cologne), a manuscript of Decretum Burchardi dated to ca. 1020.

Uncertainty over ‘the imaginal’6 thus lay at the centre of European witchcraft.

Renaissance theologians had to decide whether witches’ transformations, flights, and sabbaths were merely dreams, and if so, whether the individuals involved none the less merited prosecution for believing them. The issues begin to look very much like those posed by the desert Fathers. The difference between the first ascetics and the laity during the witch craze was that earlier a (male) individual had largely been left to monitor his own spiritual failures. Later (male) clerics decided this matter on behalf of (female) individuals. Torture and capital punishment replaced internally imposed humility and renewed ascetic effort as responses to erotic dreams.

The matter of the reality of witchcraft, and the responsibility for dream visions, was never uniformly decided throughout the main period of witch-hunting, that is, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Carlo Ginzburg (1983) reveals how the authorities resolutely ignored statements by Friulian villagers that they fought demons ‘in the spirit’, while their bodies were at home, asleep. The accused called themselves benandanti (good-doers) and imagined that their practices were fundamentally Christian. Under the duress of long interrogation, however, the benandanti changed their stories and confessed that they had consorted with demons ‘for real’.

The benandanti told mainly of fighting against malevolent forces in order to safeguard the community’s harvest, and it is possible that many ‘witches’ stories’ were, likewise, not particularly sexual. The inquiring authorities, however, assumed that witchcraft must involve sexual acts with the Devil and thus they pushed the stories in that direction through questioning. Judges showed a particular interest in the issue of whether the intercourse with the devil was voluntary or forced, frightening or pleasurable (Kramer & Sprenger 1970 [1486]: 114; Lancre 1982 [1613]: 200-1). Whether or not actual erotic nightmares or erotic dreams had occurred to the accused, there was a likelihood that erotic nightmare scenarios would occupy a conspicuous place in the final confession.

800px-Baldung_Hexen_1508_kol
The nocturnal visionary tradition of the benandanti led the Roman Inquisition to accuse them of being witches, malevolent Satanists depicted in this 1508 woodcut.

Freud once rhetorically asked, ‘Why are [the witches’] confessions under torture so like the communications made by my patients in psychic treatment?’ (Ginzburg 1990: 150; Roper 1994: 245). The answer would seem to lie in the shared conviction in the importance of an underlying libidinal impulse. This sexual Urszene could be uncovered through confession, although both psychoanalysts and inquisitors faced a besetting uncertainty as to whether these received confessions were truth or fantasy (Ginzburg 1990: 151).

In this section I have retrained attention on the persistent factor of dreams, particularly demonically distorted dreams (phantasmata), at the heart of the European witchcraft phenomenon. My contention is that dreams, erotic dreams, nightmares, and erotic nightmares all occasionally figured in witch-craft cases. The effect of the threatening manuals for prosecutors, and of the prosecutions themselves, was to funnel even innocuous dreams into an erotic nightmare formulation, thereby further defining and maximally diffusing a category of experience that first arose in the context of early Christian asceticism.

  1. Greek magical papyri XVIIa; in Betz (1986: 253). For more on demons sending (erotic) dreams, see Eitrem (1991) and Faraone (1999).
  2. Found in the first-century CE author, Aetius, Placita, 5.2.3; text and translation in von Staden (1989: 386).
  3. Galen considered erotic dreams as textbook examples of the category of dreams that reflected an individual’s physical state: ‘men full of sperm will imagine that they are having sexual intercourse’ (On diagnosis from dreams, in Oberhelman 1983: 46).
  4. ‘The sin of accidie (boredom, despondency) – also known as the noonday demon – provides one example of a demonic thought that allied the irascible and sensuous parts of the soul and ‘suffocated the intellect’ (Evagrius, Praktikos, 36). Evagrius considered accidie ‘the heaviest of the demons’ (Praktikos, 12). I thank George Calofonos for his discussion of these ideas.
  5. An indication of the currency of the term may be found in Augustine’s City of God, 15.23. 17 My use of this term perhaps differs somewhat from its use in Jungian circles and elsewhere (cf. Tedlock 1987: 3).
  6. I use ‘imaginal’ to refer to a state of consciousness in which one has the impression that what one is witnessing is absolutely ‘real’ and independent of one’s mind, although one is, in fact, only imagining it. The term ‘imaginary’, by contrast, implies an awareness, even in the moment of imagining, that what one beholds is only a product of one’s imagination. Dreams, visions, hallucinations, and apparitions are, generally, experienced imaginally and then subsequently accounted for as imaginary.
  7. Succubus
    http://xylographilia.com/product/succubus/
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Nocturnal Emissions (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, when a monastic has a wet dream, they are not permitted to venerate the icons, enter the iero, nor partake of Antidoron and Holy Communion. If the monk is an ekklesiastiko, he is not permitted to clean the church and the duty is given to another monk until after Vespers. If a monk or nun falls into the sin of masturbation then they are penance with no Holy Communion for 40 days. That day they cannot touch anything holy. Many times, the monk or nun will also have to go to the Lity daily and beg forgiveness on their hands and knees at the end of the Service: “Forgive me brothers and Fathers, I am filthy (or disgusting) in both body and soul.” This is a common thing said in the Lity when a monastic falls into carnal sin. About 10 years ago, a monk in Arizona was given 80 days in the Lity, and ordered to say the above statement . This news traveled amongst the other monasteries and it was noted that Geronda Ephraim has never given that many days in the Lity. Also, if a monk or nun accepts lustful thoughts until they reach ejaculation, it is also classified as masturbation and they are penanced as a masturbator. Sometimes, the monk or nun is ordered to go on their knees in front of all the other monks or nuns of their monastery and confess the carnal sin they fell into, i.e., “Forgive me brothers/sisters, last night I fell into the sin of masturbation.” This is usually followed by the abbot or abbess rebuking the fallen monastic and giving a cautionary homily to the other monastics. The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

St nikodemos 1

CANON IV OF DIONYSIOS, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA 

As for those men who involuntarily become victims of nocturnal emission, let them too be guided by their own conscience as to whether to indulge or not, and decide for themselves, whether they have any doubt about this matter or not, as also in the case of foods, “he that hath any doubt is damned if he eat” (Romans 14:23). And let everyone be conscientious in these matters, and out spoken, in accordance with his own inclination, when he approaches God. In honoring us (for you know you are, dear) by asking these questions, you have taken us to be like-minded, as indeed we are, and you are making us partners in your decision. As for me, it is not as a teacher, but as one who deems it fitting for us to talk with each other with all simplicity, that I have set forth my own conception of the matter for our common benefit. After finding that this conception of the matter meets with your approbation, my most sensible son, when you come to see whether it is so, you may write in turn about these matters whatever appears to you right and better. Farewell, my dear son, and I pray that this finds you in peace ministering to the Lord.

INTERPRETATION

In the present Canon the Saint is speaking about involuntary emission, or what is more commonly called a wet dream, which occurs during our sleep; and he says that all men who suffer this should make their own conscience the judge. For if the wet dream resulted without any obscene imagination and erotic thought, and furthermore without overeating and over-drinking, and instead nature alone did this of herself, as if it were a natural superfluity in the way of excrement, they are not prevented from coming to communion. But if it resulted from the causes above mentioned – that is to say, from imagination and erotic thought, or from excessive eating and excessive drinking, they ought to be forbidden communion, on the ground that they are not pure, not because of the emission itself of the semen (since this is not unclean, seeing that it is a natural product, precisely as neither the flesh is unclean in itself, of which the semen is an excretion), but because of the wicked contemplation and imagination which polluted the mind. Such men as these, then, are not conscientious, and accordingly they are not outspoken, owing to the wicked contemplation and imagination they give rein to. Hence, both as doubters and as being convicted or reproved by their conscience, how can they approach God and the Mysteries? For if they approach while thus doubting, they are rather condemned, and not sanctified, just like one who is condemned for eating the common and unclean animals forbidden to Jews, if he doubts and hesitates about these, as the Apostle says.

00

CONCERNING MEN WITH NOCTURNAL EMISSIONS

Canon XII of Timothy is in effect a more detailed explanation of the present Canon. For it interprets this reproof of the conscience of one who has had a wet dream. Accordingly, if he is reproved and convicted of having had this happen to him as the result of a desire for a woman-or, in other words, an erotic thought and imagination-he must not partake; but if it was the result of the influence of demons that this happened to him, he may commune. Since, however, it is difficult for one to discern when the cause of his wet dream is traceable to the enviousness and influence of demons, without his providing any occasion for it himself, the safest way is not to commune. For a wet dream may result from either overeating or over-drinking or oversleeping, and from negligence and repose, and from languor of the body, and from pride, and condemnation, and aspersion, and from some illness of the body, and from a wicked habituation to fornication, and from toil and the drinking of cold beverages. Oftentimes it is due to fear of having a wet dream, according to Symeon the modern Theologian (and see the reply No.S of Anastasios the Sinaite, and Philokalia on page 908). For this reason too the Faster in his c. VI forbids one who has polluted himself in sleep from communing for one day. John of Citrus and Balsamon in Reply No. 1 likewise excludes priests and laymen for a day if they have had a wet dream, with the sole exception that in case of danger a layman may partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord, or a priest may celebrate Divine Liturgy, even though he has had a wet dream. So say also Symeon of Thessalonica in his replies No. 14 and 15, and the Lausaicum in the discourse concerning Dioscoros, and Barsanuphios the great one among Fathers.

But above all and on all scores the great and accurate nomograph of the Spirit St. Basil insists that one ought not to commune when he has his usual trouble (see his Epitomized Definition No. 309), and is not free from every pollution of flesh and spirit (Question 3 concerning Baptism). But a wet dream due to desire and imagination is a pollution both of the soul and of the body; that, on the other hand, which occurs without imagination or insensibly, is a pollution of only the body; and there is scarcely anyone to be found who when he has a wet dream thus or otherwise is not reproved by his conscience as having polluted himself, owing to the prejudice which men have firmly rooted about this matter in their imagination. But some critical individuals have attributed pollution of the flesh even to that little pleasurable moistness of semen felt by one in his generative member and caused either by erotic contemplation or by seeing and hearing erotically some passionately loved person; from which sort of pollution as this too those going to Communion ought to be free. I cannot conceal here by silence the great cunning and craftiness employed by the Devil in regard to this affliction of a wet dream, which cunning and craftiness that sage Nilus brings out in one of his letters. The heinous wretch, says he, goes to such great lengths to pollute miserable man with an erotic wet dream that he is not satisfied to have a man suffer this misfortune while asleep, but after the accursed one excites the malignant development in a man with the imagination of certain persons, and especially of those whom we have had time to make an effort, and after nature has already prepared herself for action, he awaken the man at that moment in order that he may feel more vividly, while awake, that impure pleasure and be enabled to remember it the better. Hence by taking a cue from this fact let everyone understand how precious a treasure virginity is, and how much the Devil envies and plots to steal him away from us, and let us be on our guard.

Archangel Michael Chapel @ St. Nektarios Monastery, NY
Archangel Michael Chapel @ St. Nektarios Monastery, NY

QUESTION XII OF TIMOTHY, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA

If a layman who has had a wet dream ask a Clergyman to let him partake of communion, ought the Clergyman to administer communion to him, or not?

ANSWER

If it is a case of desiring a woman he ought not. But if it was Satan tempting him in order to provide an excuse for excluding him from communion of the divine Mysteries, the Clergyman ought to administer communion to him, since the tempter will not cease attacking during the time when he ought to partake of communion.

INTERPRETATION

Having been asked whether a layman who has had a wet dream ought to partake of communion on the day after he had the wet dream, this Father replies in the present Canon that if the man suffered this predicament as a result of a desire or conation to enjoy a woman, the man ought not to partake of communion, because this impassioned conation, or impulse, to which the emission was due, has polluted his intellect.

But if no such desire and conation took place, but, instead, Satan merely tempted him out of envy in order to prevent him from receiving the sanctification conferred by the divine Mysteries, he ought to partake of communion, because if he fail to partake of them, Satan will not cease to tempt him and to keep on thus preventing him from doing so whenever he is preparing to come to communion.14 Read also Canon IV of Dionysius.

Vigil at Holy Protection Monastery, PA.
Vigil at Holy Protection Monastery, PA.
  1. JOHN THE FASTER, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

CANON V

Consent is the cause and origin of penances.

INTERPRETATION

The present Canon decrees that whoever becomes polluted during the night by having a seminal emission in his sleep, must not commune on the succeeding day. But after reciting the 50th Psalm of David and doing forty-nine metanies, he is purified from this pollution. But in view of the fact that women suffer a wet dream in their sleep too, they ought likewise to be penalized along with men. St. Barsanuphius the Great also canonizes with this same penance persons who had had a wet dream. According to Balsamon, however, women ought to receive antidoron when they do not commune, in order to avoid incurring any suspicion from their husbands. See also Canon IV of Dionysios.

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, FL
Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, FL

CANON VII

But one who has been polluted in body while awake is excluded from Communion for seven days, having also to chant the fiftieth Psalm and to make forty-nine metanies.

INTERPRETATION

But anyone who suffers a seminal emission while he is awake is forbidden the divine communion for seven days, according to this Canon, and on every one of these days he has to say the 50th Psalm, and do daily forty-nine metanies.

Holy Trinity Monastery, MI.
Holy Trinity Monastery, MI.

CONSENT IS GIVING IN TO PASSION

Consent is defined by Bryennius (ibid.) as follows: “Consent is the giving in and assent of reason to passion.” Coressius asserts that consent may be complete or incomplete; and that complete consent implies complete a complete understanding on the part of the mind and a complete assent on the part of the will; hence it renders sin persistent. Note, however, that assault, presumption, wrestling, and consent, these.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery, IL.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery, IL.

WET DREAMS, DIFFERENCES, MASTURBATION; PENALTIES

The emission of semen while one is awake is due either to a vivid imagination and image of the subject with whom he is in love, when that subject is not present, or to a pleasurable contemplation of the person, or to hearing the latter’s voice, or to touching or being touched by the subject loved erotically, when the latter is present. This predicament besets for the most part persons who are of a warm constitution and warm-blooded, and also those who have become accustomed to fornication for a long time; for the seminal passages of these latter persons, being wide open, easily ejaculate on the slightest provocation, according to physicians. Note, however, that there is extant a treatise purporting to have been written by Anastasios of Antioch which says of the seminal emission suffered by a man while awake the following: As for emission while awake, the person either does it to himself or to another. That which he causes himself to suffer is due either to handling with the hand, and that is canonized to forty days (because it is outright masturbation, or it is caused without handling with the hand.) This other variety results from an assault alone, and is canonized one day. Another variety results from presumption. That which is due to presumption either occurs without consent and without titillation, and it is canonized seven days. That, again, which is produced on another person, or caused to another person, is effected either by wallowing or without wallowing. That which is effected without wallowing on the one hand, either is due to manipulations and kisses, but without deliberate titillation, and is canonized twenty days, or, on the other hand, with deliberate titillation, and is canonized with thirty days. As for that which is due to wallowing, either it is a result of an engagement with one of the same species, in which case it is canonized seventy (or eighty) days; or else it is a result of an engagement with one of a different species, with lower animals, that is to say, in which case it is canonized seven years.

Holy Archangels Monastery, TX.
Holy Archangels Monastery, TX.

Also see: