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OTT (Text) -- 1

III On the Thoughts (Text)


Évagre le Pontique
Sur Les Pensées
Édition du texte grec…
Paul Géhin, Claire Guillaumont et Antoine Guillaumont

Sources chrétiennes, No 438
Les Éditions du Cerf

Paris, France.

On the Thoughts

1 Of the demons which are opposed to the practical life, the first during the war to engage in battle are those which are entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those which suggest avarice to us and those which call us out to the glory of men. All the others march behind these, receiving, in their turn, those who have been wounded by the first. For it is not possible to fall into the hands of a spirit of fornication not having been thrown down by the spirit of gluttony. And it is not possible to disturb the temper if it is not battling for food, money or glory. It is not possible to elude the demon of sorrow having been deprived of all these things or not having been able to obtain them. Neither will one avoid pride, the first-born of the Devil, not having banished the root of all the vices, avarice [cf. 1 Tim. 6, 10], if, indeed, also ‘Poverty humbles the man,’ according to the wise Solomon [Prov. 10, 4]. And, to sum up, it is not possible for a man to fall into the hands of a demon, not having first been wounded by those in the front rank.

That is why also, at that time, the Devil brought forth to the Saviour these three thoughts, first exhorting that the stones become bread; then promising the whole world if he would fall down and worship; and, third, saying that if he would hear, he would be glorified, having suffered nothing from such a great fall. To which things our Lord showed himself superior, and ordered the Devil to retire to the rear, teaching us also by means of these things that it is not possible to repel the Devil not having held in contempt these three thoughts. [Cf. Luke 4, 1–13.]

2 All demonic thoughts (logismoi) introduce into the soul mental representations (noemata) of sensible objects, being imprinted in which things the mind carries around in itself the forms of those objects. Further, from the object, the mind knows the demon that has approached, as: should face of the him who has injured or dishonoured me occur in my intellect, then the thought of rancour will be convicted of having approached. If, again, a remembrance of money or glory should occur, then manifestly from the object will the thought be recognized which is oppressing us. And in the same way for the other thoughts: from the object you will find the thought which is present and making the suggestion.

I do not say that all memories of such objects occur on account of the demons—since by nature the mind itself, also, set in motion by the man, recalls the imaginations of objects which have come to be—but as many memories as draw with them, contrary to nature, temper or the desiring part. For because of the disturbance of these powers, the mind, in the intellect, commits adultery or gives battle, being unable to receive the imagination of God who has legislated for it, if, indeed, that splendour discloses itself to the ruling part [of the soul] in the time of prayer in accordance with the deprivation of all mental representations in respect of objects.

3 A man could not avoid impassioned memories not having taken a care to the desiring part and temper, consuming the first in fasts, vigils and sleepings on the ground and taming completely the second with long-sufferings, avoidances of rancour and acts of mercy, for out of these two passions almost all demonic thoughts stand in battle array, those which cast the mind into ‘ruin and destruction’ [1 Tim. 6, 9]. It is impossible for someone to prevail over these passions if he does not completely despise food and money and glory—and even his own body, on account of those [demons] that make an attempt to cudgel it. There is every need, therefore, to imitate those who are in danger at sea and who jettison the tackle on account of the violence of the winds and of the waves rising up in insurrection. But in this matter care must be taken precisely lest we jettison the tackle, doing it so as to be seen by men, since then we are far from our reward and another shipwreck worse than the first will receive us, that of the demon of vainglory blowing a contrary wind. That is why our Lord, in the Gospels, training the pilot-mind, says: ‘Take care not to do your acts of mercy before men so as to be seen by them; if not, you do not have a reward from your Father who is in the Heavens.’ [Matt. 6, 1.] And, again, he says: ‘When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the public squares so that they appear to men. Amen, I say to you, they are far from their reward.’ [Matt. 6, 5.] And, again, he says: ‘When you fast, do not become gloomy like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces so that they appear to men to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they are far from their reward.’ [Matt. 6, 15.] But one must attend here to the Doctor of Souls, how he cures the temper by means of acts of mercy, cleanses the mind by means of prayer and, again, completely withers the desiring part by means of fasting—from which things the new man is formed who is renewed ‘according to the image of him who created him’ [Col. 3, 10], in whom ‘there is’, because of the holy dispassion, ‘neither male nor female, neither’, because of the one faith and charity, ‘Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, slave or freeman, but all things and in all, Christ.’ [Col. 3, 11.]

4 One must investigate how in the imaginations during sleep the demons imprint and give a form to our ruling part, for such a thing seems to occur to the mind when it sees by means of the eyes, or hears by means of the ears, or by means of some sense or other—or from the memory, which imprints the ruling part not by means of the body, except that whatever things it had by means of the body, these things it sets in motion.

The demons, in any event, seem to me to imprint the ruling part when they set in motion the memory. For the [sense] organ is held inactive by the sleep.

How, again, the demons set the memory in motion is to be investigated. Or perhaps it is by means of the passions? And this is apparent from the fact that the pure and dispassionate no longer suffer this sort of thing.

There is also a certain movement of memory either simple, occurring through our own agency, or else occurring through the agency of the holy powers, according to which we meet with saints in our sleep and speak with them and dine with them. (However, it is to be noted that whatever images the soul receives into itself with the body, these images the memory sets in motion without the body. And this is clear from the fact that we suffer this often and in sleep, while the body is at rest.) For as it is possible to remember water with thirst and without thirst, thus it is possible to remember gold with avarice and without avarice, and so on in the same way for the other things. That the mind should find such and such varieties of imaginations is a token by which the evil arts of those [demons] can be recognized. At the same time, this also must be known, that the demons have made use of external objects for the sake of imagination, as the sound of the waves for those who are sailing.

5 When our temper is set in motion contrary to nature, it contributes exceedingly to the goal of the demons and it becomes most useful to all of their practice of the evil arts. Whence, night and day, no one of the demons ceases to disturb the temper, but when they see the temper bound by meekness, then they loose it immediately on the basis of just pretexts so that, having become more keen, it also be of use to their savage thoughts. For that reason, it is necessary not to inflame the temper on the occasion of either just or unjust things, nor to give an evil sword to those who are making the suggestion—which very thing I know many to have done many times and to have been set on fire, more than there was need, on the basis of trivial pretexts.

Tell me, then, on account of what do you fall quickly into a battle if, indeed, you despised food and money and glory? Vowing to have nothing, why, then, do you feed the dog? If, then, that one barks and attacks people, it is clear beforehand that, within, it has acquired some things and that it wishes to guard these things.

But I am persuaded that such a person is far from pure prayer, knowing well that the temper is the destroyer of such prayer. In addition to these things, I wonder that such a person has also forgotten the saints. For David cries out: ‘Cease from anger and abandon temper.’ [Ps. 36, 8.] The Ecclesiast orders: ‘Separate temper from your heart and put off evil from your flesh.’ [Eccl. 11, 10.] And the Apostle commands: ‘Let hands be raised up in every place [in prayer] without anger and quarrels.’ [1 Tim. 2, 8.] Why do we not learn from the secret and old custom of men to expel the dogs from their houses in the time of prayer, and this hinting that temper must not be present in those who are praying? And again: ‘Their wine is the anger of dragons.’ [Deut. 32, 33.] Nazirites, then, abstained from wine [cf. Num. 6, 3]. One of the wise men of the pagans judged that the gall and the loin were inedible by the gods, not knowing, I think, what he was saying. Of these things I myself think that the first is a symbol of anger and the second of irrational passion.

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