68. If a man has cut off the passions and so has freed his thoughts from passion, it does not necessarily mean that his thoughts are already orientated towards the divine. It may be that he feels no passionate attraction either for human or for divine things. This occurs in the case of those simply living the life of ascetic practice without yet having been granted spiritual knowledge. Such men keep the passions at bay either by fear of punishment or by hope of the kingdom.
I found this text intriguing. It acknowledges that we can break the grip of the passions through ascetic practice without necessarily turning toward God and receiving spiritual knowledge (which I understand in this context to be the noetic experience of our personal God — attuning our nous to God). Upon reflection, I think that makes sense to me. Some people are highly disciplined and have a strong will. If they turn that will toward breaking the grip of the passions, they may succeed. But that is not the ultimate goal. It’s something to consider, at least.