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OTT (Commentary) -- 7

18 Of the unclean demons, some tempt the man as man and others agitate him as irrational animal. And the first, when they approach, cast into us mental representations of vainglory or pride or envy or condemnation, which very things affect none of the irrational animals. The second, when they draw near, set anger or desire in motion contrary to nature. For these very passions are common to us and to the irrational animals, concealed by the rational nature.

On the surface, this passage is clear: Man is composed of a mind (nous) joined to an animal nature. Here we express this consistently with Evagrius’ own heterodox cosmology, but it is much the same in St Gregory of Nyssa’s anthropology: there, the mind (nous) is what is essentially human, what is essentially the image of God; but, in St Gregory of Nyssa, the joining of the mind (nous) to the animal nature is done at conception, and the mind (nous) does not exist before conception. In both cases, however, man has the animal or irrational passions that he took up with sense-perception: in the case of Evagrius, by a complicated process that we have already adequately discussed;[1] in the case of St Gregory of Nyssa, in man’s creation by God.

In man, according to Evagrius’ text above, the animal nature is ‘concealed’ by the rational nature.

Hence, what Evagrius seems to be saying in this chapter is merely this: some passions affect man as man—this must refer to the mind (nous)—and some affect man as irrational animal—this must refer to what, in the Evagrian system, the mind (nous) took up with sense-perception when it became man: the temper (thumos) and the desire (epithumia).

This distinction, of which the present chapter is merely an elaboration as concerns the judgement that a man incurs on account of sins which relate to him as man or which relate to him as animal, should be obvious to the reader. It is based on the common experience of mankind. Let us remark, however, that in the sins of man as man Evagrius explicitly includes vainglory, pride, envy and condemnation of others.

But we have a problem. Is Evagrius consistent? For we have encountered the tripartite soul in TPL 89—indeed, it is the basis of Evagrius’ psychology in TPL—and we have also encountered Evagrius’ eightfold typology of the demons, passions and thoughts which relate to the passionate part of the soul, which passionate part comprises the desiring part (epithumia) and the irascible part (thumos). Two of the eight passions of the passionate part of the soul are vainglory and pride, and envy and condemnation are traditionally considered to be subtypes of pride. Moreover, we have already seen and quoted passages both of TPL and of the Gnostic which make the temptations and sins of the mind (nous) to be intellectual temptations to and sins of delusion and ignorance, not moral temptations to and sins of vainglory, pride, envy or condemnation. In the language of Western mediæval Scholasticism, for Evagrius, the vices of the mind (nous) are the intellectual vices, whereas the vices of the desiring part and the irascible part of the soul are the moral vices. It also goes without saying that for Evagrius the virtues of the mind (nous) are the intellectual virtues and that the virtues of the desiring part and the irascible part are the moral virtues. We are not suggesting that Evagrius is a Scholastic; he is not. We are simply using Scholastic language because it is convenient to the point we wish to make.

Our problem is this: TPL 35–8 lay down a typology of the passions of the body and the passions of the soul, and their treatment by continence—passions of the body—and spiritual charity (or meekness)—passions of the soul. It is clear in TPL 38 that anger is included among passions of the soul. Here, however, in this chapter of OTT, Evagrius has grouped anger and desire as passions which affect man as irrational animal.[2] Moreover, in this chapter of OTT, Evagrius has grouped vainglory, pride, envy and condemnation as passions of man as man—seemingly, as passions of the rational nature of man.

Hence, we have a situation where gluttony and fornication are bodily passions of the desiring part which affect man as irrational animal. Anger is a passion of the temper, and, as such, a passion of the soul, but, here, simultaneously a passion of the irrational nature of man. The remaining five passions are passions of the soul—of the temper, not of the mind (nous), which is subject only to demons which are related to ignorance and delusion and which are ‘enemies of all truth’—which passions of the soul affect the rational nature of man. (Accidie, however, affects the ascetic both as man and as animal.)[3]

How are we to bring order out of this confusion?

It seems to us that we have here two parallel typologies of the passions, one based on the analysis of the soul into the desiring part, irascible part and rational part—this is the structure of the soul in TPL—, and another, based on the distinction of man taken as man and man taken as irrational animal. As we have already discussed, we do not think that the two typologies are consistent the one with the other.[4] We discard, for the reasons already given, the notion that moral vices of man as man such as vainglory and pride are considered by Evagrius to pertain to the mind (nous). We believe that for Evagrius they pertain to the soul in the soul state before the soul is embodied in a human body, and that the passions of man as man are precisely the passions of the unembodied soul. The only glaring inconsistency, then, is the treatment of the passion of anger: in the first typology it is grouped with the passions of the soul; in the second typology, it is treated as a passion of the irrational animal nature. In the first typology, we would identify the nature of man as irrational animal with the desire (epithumia)—this in fact seems to be consistent with what Evagrius says elsewhere—, and we would treat the passions of the soul as passions of the temper (thumos). In the second typology, we would identify the nature of man as irrational animal with the desiring part (epithumia) and the temper (thumos) taken together, and we would treat the passions of the soul as inhering in the unembodied soul in some other, unspecified, way.

Now, in Evagrius, the mind (nous) and the soul (psuche) are not the same thing.[5] We know that Evagrius posits that the mind (nous) became a soul (psuche) when it descended to the rank of praktike. We proposed in Volume I that the explanation of Evagrius’ thinking in this anthropology is that, at the stage that the mind became an unembodied soul (psuche), then the passions of man as man were added to that mind (nous). These would be the passions related to the moral vices of man taken as man. They would inhere in the soul (psuche) without being part of the mind (nous), temper (thumos) or desire (epithumia): not the mind (nous) because they were moral and not intellectual passions; not the temper (thumos) or the desire (epithumia) because those parts of the soul (psuche) had not yet been added to the soul (psuche): they would be added when the unembodied soul (psuche) took on a human body. When the unembodied soul (psuche) took on a human body, then, we think, Evagrius would want us to understand that that soul (psuche) took up the irrational animal nature—the temper (thumos) and the desire (epithumia)—along with the passions related to the moral vices of gluttony, fornication and anger. Of course, this anthropology, in part based directly on Origen in Peri Archon,[6] is not Orthodox. As we discussed in Volume I, the problem seems to be that Evagrius is trying to combine two different anthropologies, that of the Origen and that of the Cappadocian Fathers. Since these anthropologies are incompatible, inconsistencies arise in Evagrius’ treatment.

We mentioned in Volume I that we could discern a layer of anthropology in the Kephalaia Gnostica that seemed to be consistent with that of the Cappadocian Fathers and a layer which seemed to be based on Evagrius’ own reflections on Origen. We think that the psychology of TPL based on the tripartite division of the soul is the one consistent with the Cappadocian anthropology and that the psychology found in this chapter of OTT, of the passions of man taken as man and man taken as irrational animal, reflects either a false start on Evagrius’ part or his own Origenist modification of that Cappadocian anthropology.

It is also possible that, if OTT is, as we have suggested, an earlier work than the trilogy composed of the Treatise on the Practical Life, the Gnostic and the Kephalaia Gnostica, then the analysis of the trilogy reflects Evagrius’ final decision as to the proper analysis of human psychology as regards the passions.

It must be remarked, however, that the Skemmata contains both typologies within the span of sixty-two brief chapters. For the passage under consideration is similar to Skemmata 40. Evidently, Evagrius did not perceive any inconsistency in his two accounts.

We like Evagrius’ tripartite psychology in TPL. Based, as we think it is, on the anthropology of the Cappadocians, it is easily adaptable to the anthropology of St Gregory of Nyssa that we have already discussed at length in Volume I and it allows us to formulate ascetical psychology in an Orthodox way. For that reason, and for the reason that the ascetical psychology of TPL seems more consistent with the tripartite soul than with the typology introduced in this chapter, we think that the tripartite psychology of TPL is the one that we should retain. The differences between Evagrius’ two treatments of psychology (i.e. anthropology) indicate to us that he had not fully integrated all aspects of his own evolving conception of man.

The rest of this chapter is quite easy. Having considered the distinction between human and irrational passions, Evagrius proceeds to distinguish among the judgements incurred by the corresponding sins. The only difficulty is in understanding the difference between the vulture and the raven; certainly, it is an important distinction related to the type of irrational passion that the sinner acted upon in his sin, but it need not detain us.

For that reason, the Holy Spirit says to those who have fallen into human thoughts: ‘I said: you are all of you gods and sons of the Most High. You will die as men and fall as one of the rulers.’ [Ps. 81, 6–7.] Towards those who are being set in motion irrationally, what does he say? ‘Do not become as the horse and the mule, in which animals there is not understanding, with the muzzle and the rein you will press tight the jaws of those who do not draw near to you.’ [Ps. 31, 9.]

If, then, ‘The soul which sins, that soul shall die,’ [Ezek. 18, 4; 18, 20] then it is apparent beforehand that men who die as men will be buried by men, whereas those who die as irrational animals, that is, who fall, will be eaten by vultures or ravens, the young of the second of which call upon the Lord [cf. Ps. 146, 9], while the young of the first defile themselves in blood [cf. Job 39, 30]. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ [Matt. 11, 15; etc.]

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 19 of Peri Diakriseos in the Philokalia.

The next chapter is quite important, for it discusses two new methods for combating a thought sown by a demon. Although these methods, as far as we know, are no longer in use among the Orthodox, at least on Mount Athos, we are confident that they are revelatory both of human ascetical psychology and of Evagrius, the man.

Let us recall before beginning the text that a thought (logismos) sown by a demon commences with the approach of the demon near to the ascetic and with its excitation, by its ‘bad odour’, of the passion to which it corresponds.[7] The ascetic experiences this as the impassioned recollection of an object of sense, as an impassioned mental representation. In the model of OTT 17, above, that of the ascetic as a shepherd tending the sheep of his mental representations as he goes through his daily routine, one of the sheep has been seized by a beast or robber and the ascetic wants to wrest it from that beast or robber.

19 When one of the enemy draws near and wounds you, and, according to the passage in Scripture, you wish to turn his sword against his own heart [cf. Ps. 36, 15], do in the way that we say: When you are by yourself, divide the thought that was cast into you by the enemy, which very thought: When does it occur? And from what objects was it composed? And which of those objects is the one which especially oppresses the mind?

This is the first method. It is a method of dissolving the thought (logismos) into its constituent parts, and of thus forcing the demon to depart and the thought (logismos) to dissipate. The instructions are clearly for a meditation in the modern sense. Evagrius does not seem to envisage the use of this method on a continuous basis: the instruction indicates that the ascetic is to use this method in a period of recollection.

What I am saying is this sort of thing: Let the thought of avarice be the one which was sent by the demon. Divide this thought:

Evagrius will call this method the method of division.

into the mind which received it

The mind (nous) is the principle of consciousness in us; it is the eye of the soul. The intellect (dianoia) is an operation of the mind (nous); it is the field of consciousness upon which are perceived, in the first instance, the mental representations and, later, the thoughts (logismoi).

and into the mental representation of gold

The mental representation of gold is in this chapter supposed by Evagrius to be accompanied by the excitation of the passion of avarice, but it is clear from the context that Evagrius is here referring to the mental representation of gold qua ‘mere’ mental representation.

and into gold itself

Somewhere there objectively exists gold, although not in the ascetic’s intellect. Gold is an object of sense which ontologically exists apart from the mind (nous) of the ascetic.

and into the passion of avarice.

This of course is a tendency contrary to nature of the soul of the ascetic, one which calls the ascetic to a pleasure of the senses.

Ask, further, which of these things is sin. Whether it is the mind, and, if so, how? The mind is the image of God.

Thus Evagrius’ anthropology agrees on this point with that of St Macrina and St Gregory of Nyssa.

But is it the mental representation of gold? But who would ever say this who had a mind? But is gold itself sin? And for what reason has it come to be?

Recall the contemplation in OTT 9, above, of the spiritual reason (logos), according to Evagrius, of gold.

It therefore follows that the cause of sin is the fourth, which thing is not a thing which exists substantially

Evagrius means that the passion of avarice is not gold itself, which gold has an autonomous substantial existence since it is not a figment of the imagination of the ascetic: somewhere there actually exists gold independently of the mind (nous) of the ascetic. He is saying that the passion of avarice is not the physical element, gold.

nor the mental representation of an object,

Neither is the passion of avarice the mental representation of gold in the mind of the ascetic qua ‘mere’ mental representation.

nor, again, the bodiless mind—

The nous. The first thing that Evagrius listed above. The passion of avarice is none of: the element, gold; the ‘mere’ mental representation of the element, gold; the mind (nous).

but a certain pleasure

All the passions except sorrow call us to a pleasure of the senses.

hateful of men

This is particularly true of avarice.

which is given birth out of the free will

The essential element in Christian non-dualist metaphysics which accounts for the existence of evil.

and which obliges the mind

In the sense of ‘presses upon’. No one is obliged to sin.

to use evilly the things created by God, to circumcise which very pleasure has been entrusted to the Law of God.

This is a profound appreciation by Evagrius of the cause of passion and sin, and a profound understanding of the divine moral law.

Evagrius has outlined the method. Note that intellectually understanding these things is not enough. The method is a meditation which is to be applied to the intrusive demonic thought when that demonic thought occurs, so as to dissolve it. It is an alternative to the method discussed below, to rebuttal and to all the other methods we have heretofore encountered.

And while you are examining these things minutely, the thought will be utterly destroyed, analysed into its own contemplation; and the demon will flee from you, your intellect by this very gnosis having been raised on high.

Recall from OTT 2, above, that the mental representation imprints or moulds the mind (nous), and by extension so does the thought (logismos).[8] This method, by means of the contemplation given above (we said ‘meditation’), utterly destroys the thought. It removes from the mind (nous) the thought’s imprint or moulding. Moreover, Evagrius says, the thought (logismos) will be analysed into its own contemplation (broken up into its constituent parts during the contemplation): the thought (logismos) will be dissolved into the contemplation as the contemplation is conducted. And the demon, he says, will flee from you, your intellect by this very gnosis having been raised on high.

Before we turn to the second method, let us ask this question: should we use this first method today?

We do not know. There are some dangers. We once met a man who had spent some eight years in Buddhist monasteries, in Laos before the Communist takeover and in Thailand, before he returned to Christ. We met him in an Orthodox monastery. He was a visitor who wished to speak to a certain Starets. He described to us Vipassana meditation, a meditation similar to the above contemplation used in southeast Asian Theravada Buddhism—and possibly elsewhere, we do not know. Theravada is the most ancient form of Buddhism, based on Buddhist yoga more than Mahayana Buddhism is. The fellow mentioned that the scope of Vipassana meditation, designed to teach existentially the insubstantiality of the ego, is from sense-perception through to the mind (nous). That is, one practises Vipassana meditation on a continuous basis, first on the sense-perceptions that one has, and then, later, inside the mind (nous), using much the same method as Evagrius is outlining.

The fellow went mad practising Vipassana meditation. His guru expected it, he said, and he ‘soon’ got over the episode.

We would caution the reader that Evagrius is not advocating this dissolving meditation for the beginner—manifestly he is speaking to experienced hermits—, nor for global sensory input, nor for all mental representations (these last two would be Vipassana meditation), nor, emphatically, on a twenty-four hour a day basis. We would suggest that, before he attempt to use this method, the reader call upon the spiritual discernment available to him, if he is a member of the Orthodox Church, in the person of an experienced Elder.

Evagrius now begins to discuss his other new method:

If you wish to use the demon’s own sword, but desire first by your own sling

The reference is to David and Goliath, as the sequel will make clear. This particular image seems more consistent with the opening image of the chapter than the preceding method of division.

to conquer him, take out a stone, you also, from your shepherd’s bag [cf. 1 Kgs. 17, 48–51]

The stone is the contemplation which follows.

and seek the contemplation of this: how angels and demons draw near to our world, whereas we do not draw near to their worlds; neither are we able to unite any further the angels to God; nor do we deliberately choose to make the demons more unclean;

This passage is repeated in KG III, 78.

and how the harbinger of dawn which rises in the morning

The morning star, the Devil as angel before he fell. Recall that in the Evagrian system, the stars—and, hence, the planets—are angelic intelligences.

was cast down upon the earth [cf. Isa. 14, 12]

‘I saw Satan fallen like lightning from Heaven.’[9] Recall also that in the Evagrian cosmology, the Devil was the mind (nous) which had the initiative of the Movement.[10]

and ‘considers the sea as an unguent-box and the Tartarus of the Abyss as a captive and causes the Abyss to boil like a cauldron,’ [Job 41, 23–4] throwing all into great agitation by his evil and wishing to rule over all.

Let us first point out that there is a basic difference between a contemplation and an exercise in visualizing in the intellect the matters being contemplated.

Orthodoxy avoids mental visualization. It is frowned upon.

Moreover, clearly, a basic principle of the Evagrian doctrine of contemplation is that contemplation brings the mind (nous) of the contemplator into spiritual union or contact with the object of contemplation. This works in two senses: on the one hand, in contemplating an angel, I come into spiritual contact or even spiritual union with the angel; on the other hand, in contemplating an angel, my mind becomes angelic in a spiritual sense. That is, when in the later stage of the illuminative way of natural gnosis or contemplation, I contemplate an angel I come into real, spiritual contact with the angel and my mind becomes really, spiritually angelic. This is the significance of the beginning of TPL 61 (‘The mind will not advance nor depart the good departure and come to be in the land of the bodiless [powers]…’), which must be taken in the context of TPL 66 and 52: for Evagrius, the acquisition of dispassion (apatheia) marks the entry of the mind (nous) into the spiritual condition of natural gnosis, the higher stage of which is the spiritual condition of the angels.

The problem precisely is first to acquire dispassion (apatheia), so that, being raised first to the reasons (logoi) of existent things and then to the contemplation of the angels, the mind (nous) not be disturbed by ‘domestic trouble’[11] and be forced to return. The domestic trouble, of course, is trouble with the eight passions. We ourselves would add: and so that the mind (nous) has the purity to become transformed into the spiritual condition of the object of contemplation, whether the reason (logos) of the object of sense (not the object itself), or the angel or even the reason (logos) of the angel.[12]

The above considerations have nothing whatsoever to do with the visualization in the intellect of angels, demons, episodes from the life of Christ and so on. In Orthodox contemplation, the mind is united spiritually to the object contemplated, and this is not at all the same thing as visualizing the object of contemplation.

In a passage in Bios kai Logoi,[13] however, the very spiritually accomplished Elder Porphyrios is quoted as proceeding completely contrary to this principle, in that on occasion he used to visualize the Crucified Christ. However, an attentive reading indicates that what really was involved in such contemplations by the saintly Fr Porphyrios was a spiritual union with the Crucified Christ, not a visualization: Fr Porphyrios was in an habitual state of union with Christ, an habitual state of Theology, and the visualization was merely a means for Fr Porphyrios to focus his mind (nous) spiritually on one aspect of Christ.

The point of the above considerations is that the contemplation just given by Evagrius should—with a qualification that he himself will give just below—bring the ascetic’s mind into spiritual contact with the Devil, for it is he who ‘was cast down upon the earth’, and so on. We will draw our conclusions in a little, but let us continue with Evagrius:

For the contemplation of these particular things greatly wounds the demon

Here, we understand the Devil himself, not the demon which is sowing the particular thought which is afflicting us: recall that the starting-point of this chapter was a wound from a demon and that this is a second potential method of confronting the demon who has wounded us. However, perhaps the demon that is afflicting us also flees as follows:

and causes all his host to flee. But these particular things occur to those who have been purified a little and who see to a certain extent the reasons of things which have come to be.

That is, the ascetic must have entered at least to an extent into the stage of second natural contemplation.

The unclean

The still passionate, those who are not drawing near to dispassion (apatheia), those who have not become able to engage in the second natural contemplation.

do not know the contemplation of these things, neither will they be heard if they learn from others to utter the incantation,

We do not think that Evagrius was a sorcerer. We think that by ‘to utter the incantation’ he means ‘the external form of the contemplation’. We think that the problem that he is remarking is that, despite the fact that he is discussing a contemplation of the fall of the Devil, the mind (nous) will not be able to enter into real, spiritual contemplation of or spiritual contact with the object of contemplation unless the ascetic has reached a certain stage of the second natural contemplation. This was the qualification that we referred to just above. Evagrius himself gives two reasons why the ‘unclean’ will not be able to engage in this contemplation:

much dust and noise

Evagrius is continuing his martial metaphor. He means ‘much turbulence of the intellect’.

having been formed during the course of the war

This is the immaterial war.[14] The unclean are still fighting by night.[15]

on account of the passions.

Recall TPL 61, which speaks of the spiritual, not physical, departure of the mind (nous) for the land of the bodiless powers once dispassion (apatheia) has been achieved, and which indicates that an attempt to enter into such gnosis without adequate purification will end in failure.

For it is necessary for the camp of the Philistines

The demons. Goliath is the Devil. In continuing his metaphor, Evagrius is following the details of the scriptural narrative of David and Goliath.

to keep completely quiet so that Goliath, alone, meets our David [cf. 1 Kgs. 17, 4–51].

Evagrius clearly means that in the intellect the ascetic must have acquired a certain emptiness from demonically sown thoughts before he can attempt this contemplation, which clearly is none other than meeting the Devil in hand-to-hand combat.

Let us make use both of the division

This is the first method given in this chapter.

and of the form of war against all the unclean thoughts.

This is the second method, which issues in hand-to-hand combat with the Devil himself. As such, it does not seem to apply to any chance demon sowing a demonic thought, except, as we remarked above, to the extent that all the Devil’s host retires when the ascetic meets the Devil in hand-to-hand combat, and except to the extent that in defeating the Devil the ascetic defeats all his host, including the demon which originally was troubling him. Stylistically, however, the second method has the air of being an autonomous method. It is as if Evagrius had originally formulated the chapter with only the first method in mind, and then shoehorned the second method into the chapter despite a certain stylistic inconsistency.

What are we to make of this second method? If we ourselves are cautious about the first method, then we are certainly far more cautious about the second. We think it positively dangerous. In fact we wonder this: Somewhere Evagrius, the master psychologist, the man who was taught the ‘rudiments of theology’ by St Gregory the Theologian, the man ordained Reader by St Basil the Great, the man ordained Deacon by St Gregory the Theologian, the man who was Archdeacon of St Gregory the Theologian when St Gregory was Patriarch of Constantinople, the man who was student of St Makarios the Alexandrian, the man who was interlocutor of St Makarios the Egyptian—somewhere, this man went wrong. He was anathematized, along with Origen and Didymus the Blind, by name, by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod; and the cosmological system that is associated with these three names, the cosmological system that Evagrius himself clearly elaborated in the Kephalaia Gnostica, received an additional fifteen doctrinal anathemas.

We wonder: was it not in engaging thoughtlessly and rashly in such contemplations as hand-to-hand combat with the Devil that Evagrius might have been tripped up unawares by the demons of vainglory and pride? We do not know. But we would not recommend that the reader engage in hand-to-hand combat with the demon or Devil using this method.

Such anecdotal evidence as we have heard during our brief stay on Mount Athos concerning contact with the Devil has always been in the form of an uninvited visit or apparition of the Devil and of a rebuttal by the tempted person which causes the Devil to flee, defeated. These rebuttals always have the form of a snappy one-liner; this is what gives these anecdotes their currency.

We have also heard of a great Starets, Fr Paisios, who prayed for the salvation of the Devil[16]—to which the Devil appeared as a dog sticking out its tongue in mockery.[17]

But we have never heard of anyone today consciously and intentionally making spiritual contact with the Devil in order to invite him to heads-on hand-to-hand combat. This is folly.

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 20 of Peri Diakriseos in the Philokalia.

The next chapter is an important discussion of why we might find it easy to rebut a demonically sown thought.

20 When certain of the unclean thoughts are quickly put to flight,

This is an ease of rebuttal, not a general cessation of the immaterial war as discussed in TPL 44 and 57.

let us seek the cause whence this has occurred, whether because of the rarity of the object, or because the matter is hard to procure, or because the enemy could not prevail against us because of the dispassion which is present in us.

Evagrius adduces three possible causes of an ease of rebuttal, which he will go on to illustrate with a concrete example. The first is the rarity of the object. I have the thought that I will be elected Bishop of Constantinople. I am a hermit in the Egyptian desert. The object is rare and because of its unlikelihood, the thought cannot gain long-term acceptance by me—if I am common-sensical.

The second possible cause is that the material is hard to procure: I will collect one trillion dollars and build a monastery in Antarctica.

The third possible cause is that I have a bit of dispassion (apatheia) and the enemy cannot prevail.

Obviously, when a thought is easily rebutted we would like to think that it is on account of the third cause, but Evagrius wants us to be careful: perhaps the first or second cause is operating.

He goes on with his illustration:

If a certain one of those who are living the life of solitude, annoyed by a demon,

It is a matter in this example of a demonically sown thought of vainglory.

were to think deeply

Were to hold impassioned intercourse with the thought sown by the demon and for more than a brief time.

on being entrusted with the spiritual governance of the capital city, he obviously will not persist in imagining this thought, and the reason is intelligible from what is said.

Egyptian Fourth Century hermits did not become Bishop of Constantinople. This is the rarity of the object.

If, then, this happens for all cities, and even the most insignificant, and the anchorite reckons in a similar way, then he is blessed on account of the dispassion.

The Egyptian Fourth Century hermit will not take seriously the demonically sown thought that he will or could or should become Bishop of Constantinople. He might take just a little more seriously Bishop of Cyprus, or Bishop of Alexandria, or even Bishop of the little village over the way. Evagrius himself was offered a bishopric by Patriarch Theophilos of Alexandria. If, however, ‘for all cities and even the most insignificant … the anchorite reckons in a similar way, then he is blessed for his dispassion.’ This is clearly an imperfect dispassion (apatheia), here relative to the passion of vainglory.[18]

And similarly with regard to the other thoughts: the method of this sort will be found through examination.

What Evagrius means is that for the other seven passions, the ascetic will be able by himself to find the appropriate method similar to this one.

The next passage, as Gehin et al. also remark, is implicitly counselling the ascetic to use this method in order to take stock—perhaps, it seems, weaving in supposition thoughts of each of the passions without there necessarily already being in the intellect demonic thoughts to oppose them to,[19] and that under various degrees of verisimilitude for the thought being woven.

It is necessary to know these things

That is, which of the passions are weak in us and which are strong.

for the sake of our zeal and fortitude, if we have crossed the Jordan

Into the land of dispassion (apatheia).

and are near to the City of Palms [cf. Deut. 34, 3]

Jericho. Let us say that it represents the second natural contemplation.

or if we are still living in the desert

Conducting the immaterial war against the thoughts and passions of the practical life.

and smitten by the foreigners.

The Philistines. They are a symbol, as in OTT 19, above, of the demons.

For our interpretation of Jericho as the second natural contemplation, compare KG VI, 49:

VI, 49 Egypt signifies vice; the desert, praktike; the land of Judah, the contemplation of bodies; Jerusalem, that of incorporeals, and Zion is the symbol of the Trinity.

There are other such chapters in the Kephalaia Gnostica.

This chapter corresponds to the first part of Chapter 21 of Peri Diakriseos in the Philokalia.

The next chapter, OTT 21, presents little problem. The only real question is whether the thoughts described remain in the intellect or whether Evagrius has actually taken some of them from his observations of real life.

21 The demon of avarice seems to me exceedingly various, and skilful in contriving deceits.

In the first instance, these deceits are practised by the demon on the ascetic, to snare him. In the second instance, the ensnared ascetic practises them on other men, to snare them in their turn. That is why Evagrius remarks in OTT 19 that the passion of avarice is ‘hateful of men’.

Many times, constrained by the consummate renunciation,

Practised by the ascetic in the desert hermitage. The renunciation of the ascetic make things difficult for the demon; hence, it must resort to the following stratagem: it sows thoughts—ostensibly just and virtuous—contrary to the eremitic state.

it feigns the steward and the lover of the poor; it receives the not-yet-present foreigners in a more lawful manner; it sends ministrations to others who are in want; it visits the prisons of the city, and, supposedly, it redeems those who have been sold; it cleaves to rich women; it secretly shows those men who ought to be well-treated; and it admonishes others, again, who have a fat purse to bid farewell to it. And, in this way, having bit by bit thoroughly beguiled the soul, it encompasses it with the thoughts of avarice and delivers it to the demon of vainglory, which introduces a multitude of those glorifying the Lord on account of these very ministrations; certain persons little by little even speaking with each other concerning the priesthood;

For the hermit.

it further foretells the death of the present priest and adds that the anchorite would not be able to escape, having done countless things; and thus the wretched mind, entangled in these very thoughts, fights

In the intellect.

with those men who do not admit these things, and readily bestows gifts on those who do admit them, and approves the prudence of these persons.

Here also, we think, in the intellect.

He surrenders certain persons who rise in rebellion to the judges and gives orders that they be exiled from the city.

We think this is an allusion to Theophilos, the Patriarch of Alexandria, who was both known to Evagrius and known for his avarice.

Well, then, these very thoughts being within and turning to and fro, immediately the demon of pride comes on by surprise

We saw this in TPL 14 and will see it again in OTT 23.

and forms continual lightning bolts in the air of the cell and lets loose winged dragons and finally works the loss of the wits.

But let us who have prayed for the destruction of these very thoughts live together with poverty in thanksgiving, ‘For we brought nothing into the world and, manifestly, neither are we able to take anything out; having, then, food and clothing, let us be content with these things,’ [1 Tim. 6, 7–8] remembering Paul, who said: ‘Avarice is the root of all evils.’ [1 Tim. 6, 10.]

This chapter corresponds to the last part of Chapter 21 of Peri Diakriseos in the Philokalia.

The next chapter is easy to follow, and should be quite clear to us by now. At the end of the chapter, however, we shall remark on the last sentence.

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[1] In Sections 6 and 13, Chapter III, of Volume I.

[2] Anger and temper are used by preference by us in this way: anger for the passion contrary to nature and temper for the irascible part of the soul. It is not always easy stylistically, however, to maintain these distinctions.

[3] See Skemmata 40.

[4] See Section 13, Chapter III, of Volume I.

[5] We discussed this in Sections 6 and 13, Chapter III, of Volume I.

[6] Peri Archon II, VIII, 3, p. 125.

[7] TPL 39.

[8] Evagrius will explain the connection between mental representation and thought in OTT 24 and 25.

[9] Luke 10, 18.

[10] See Section 8, Chapter III, of Volume I.

[11] TPL 61.

[12] OTT 41 admits these distinctions.

[13] Porphyrios G p. 267 (Porphyrios E pp. 122–3).

[14] TPL 48.

[15] TPL 83.

[16] Such a practice is consistent with the spirituality of St Isaac the Syrian, to whose writings in Greek translation Fr Paisios was quite devoted.

[17] We originally heard this orally from third parties, but the reader is referred to Paisios Life p. 233–4 for Fr Paisios’ own description of the event, and for his explanation of why God permitted the Devil to approach him in this way.

[18] TPL 60.

[19] TPL 58.


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