John of the Cross wrote the following "Precautions" for the nuns in Beas while he lived at El Calvario (1578-79), after he had escaped from prison in Toledo. Traditional Catholic spirituality, rooted in Scripture, spoke commonly of three spiritual enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. (Emphasis throughout is mine)
The soul must practice the following instructions if it wishes to attain in a short time holy recollection and spiritual silence, nakedness, and poverty of spirit, where one enjoys the peaceful comfort of the Holy Spirit, reaches union with God, is freed of all the obstacles incurred from the creatures of this world, defended against the wiles and deceits of the devil, and liberated from one's own self.
It should be noted, then, that all the harm the soul receives is born of its enemies, mentioned above: the world, the devil, and the flesh. The world is the enemy least difficult to conquer; the devil is the hardest to understand; but the flesh is the most tenacious, and its attacks continue as long as the old self lasts.
To gain complete mastery over any of these three enemies, one must vanquish all three of them; and in the weakening of one, the other two are weakened also. When all three are overpowered, no further war remains for the soul.
Precautions Against the World
To free yourself from the harm the world can do you, you should practice three precautions.
The first precaution against the world
The first is that you should have an equal love for and an equal forgetfulness of all persons, whether relatives or not, and withdraw your heart from relatives as much as from others, and in some ways even more for fear that flesh and blood might be quickened by the natural love that is ever alive among kin, and must always be mortified for the sake of spiritual perfection.Regard all as strangers, and you will fulfill your duty toward them better than by giving them
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