TPL (Commentary) -- 5
On the Passions
34 Of those things we have impassioned memories, of those same things we first accepted the objects with passion.
Evagrius starts with the recollection of an object, let us say a watch. Although he does not say so here, it is possible to recall the watch dispassionately. Here, however, it is a matter of an impassioned recollection: in some fashion—let us leave the ‘how’ ambiguous here—the recollection of the object, the watch, has one of the eight most general passions just discussed attached to it. Evagrius is saying that whenever we have such an impassioned recollection of an object, we originally accepted that object with passion.
The passion that is connected to the recollection might be the same passion with which we originally accepted the object—I am passionately fond of my watch and I recall it with desire—or it might be a passion which according to an Evagrian analysis is causally linked to the passion with which we originally accepted the object—I am sorrowed when I recall the watch that I accepted with passionate fondness because I have lost or mislaid it.
When Evagrius says ‘accepted’, it is not clear precisely what he means. He means: ‘accepted into our mind (nous)’. In some cases, this acceptance into our mind (nous) is accompanied by a physical laying of hands on the object, but this physical reception of the object is not important: it is the passionate acceptance into our mind (nous) that works the subsequent impassioned memory. This passionate acceptance into our mind (nous) requires the senses: the object must be perceived in some fashion. But the sense-perception itself is not, as sense-perception, necessarily impassioned.
And as many objects, again, as we accept with passion, of those objects we will have impassioned memories.
What does it mean to accept an object with passion? Above, we said that we had a sense-perception of an object—this sense-perception itself is not intrinsically impassioned, since we can perceive an object without passion—and that in some fashion this sense-perception became impassioned. I see a watch; I am unimpassioned: neither am I fond of the watch nor do I despise it: it is just a watch. A moment later, I see another watch, or even the same watch, and I accept it with passion. It may be in a shop window so that I cannot lay hands on it—the shop is closed and the doors bolted—but I want it for myself. I have accepted the sense-perception into my soul in an impassioned way.
As Evagrius will develop in this very chapter, somehow the demons are involved; otherwise the chapter would lack conceptual coherence. How they are involved is unclear.
It seems that a demon approaches us and excites our passion in the hour that we have the sense-perception, so that the sense-perception is charged or mixed with the passion that pertains to the demon. The result is that the memory of the object—the watch—is impassioned. Evidently, temptation enters in here: if we are sober, we will refuse the demonically stimulated admixture of passion, and the sense-perception (and, hence, the recollection) will remain unimpassioned.
So this temptation to the mixing or charging of the sense-perception with our passion is one of the things that the demons do, and we can choose to accept it or to reject it.
It may be, however, that the initial movement of our passion is initiated by sense-perception alone. My seeing the watch sets my passion in motion; the demon might have nothing to do with it. For, in TPL 38, below, Evagrius states that the passions are set in motion by the senses.
It may be that the demon acts only later, as to whether we ourselves actually accept the passionate charging set in motion by the sense-perception, or whether we leave the sense-perception unimpassioned.
The question we are raising is this: at the moment that I view the watch in the shop window and accept it passionately into my mind, what has happened? Has the sense-perception of the watch excited my passion directly without the intervention of a demon? Does a demon tempt me at the time? I can refuse to accept the watch into my mind with passion; I can rebut the thought and, as it were, turn my head from the shop window. Is a demon tempting me at the moment that I must either accept the watch with passion into my mind or reject the thought, or is it merely a matter of my sense-perception’s having by itself excited my passion without the intervention or approach of a demon? We are not sure.
However, Evagrius has a passage in another work which helps us to understand his thinking: Skemmata 59:
59 Of the passions which are set in motion, some are set in motion from the memory, some from the senses and some from the demons.
Now in Skemmata 59, Evagrius is not discussing the impassioned acceptance of an object of sense into the mind (nous); he is discussing the excitation of a passion, with which we shall deal later. However, the passage seems to imply that the presence of a demon is not necessary for the impassioned acceptance of an object into the mind (nous): I look at the watch in the shop window; the sense-perception excites my passion; I accept the impassioned sense-perception. However, we think, Evagrius would want us to understand that in certain cases a demon does approach to excite our passion in the hour that we have the sense-perception: I am standing in front of the shop window; a demon approaches; it excites my passion so that I am tempted to accept with passion the sense-perception of the watch that I might otherwise have ignored.
In the case that it is merely the sense-perception that has excited our passion, we are still free to accept or to refuse the impassioned aspect of the sense-perception, depending of course on how strong the passion is in us and how self-aware, or sober, we are.
Evagrius’ next sentences, however, imply that the demons are involved in this passionate acceptance of the sense-perception:
Whence, he who has conquered the demons who are acting despises what is done by them.
The demons do their work by a mechanism described in TPL 39. He who, having acquired the virtues, is preserved unharmed from the attacks of the demons holds what they do in contempt. As for the language ‘despises’ and ‘holds in contempt’ in regard to the demons, recall that anger towards the demons is according to nature and pleasing to God.
The connection with the preceding is that here Evagrius is thinking that it is the demon that will work the temptation to the impassioned acceptance of the object that creates the impassioned memory. Hence, if the ascetic has conquered the demon, then he will remain unharmed by the demon’s temptation to the impassioned acceptance of the sense-perception of the object. The temptation may come—the demon may approach—but refusing the temptation will be child’s play. And without the initial, impassioned acceptance of the sense-perception, there can according to Evagrius be no impassioned memory. Hence, the ascetic will also be free of the impassioned recollection of the object. He will have a simple, dispassionate, ‘mere’ recollection of the object. He will despise what is done by the demon that tempts him to the impassioned acceptance of the object.
This matter is very important for the Evagrian doctrine of contemplation. For the ascetic to raise his mind (nous) to contemplation, first contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of objects of sense, then contemplation of the angels and their reasons (logoi), and, finally, contemplation of God, the ascetic must keep his mind (nous) free of all recollections of objects of sense. But this cannot come about until the ascetic no longer has impassioned recollections of objects of sense. But this in turn implies that the ascetic no longer accepts objects into his mind (nous) with passion, which in turn implies that he has defeated the demons that are stimulating his passions.
We find, then, that we want to conquer the demons so that we do not accept sense-perceptions of objects into our mind (nous) in an impassioned way, with the result that we do not have impassioned recollections of such objects. This is a fundamental feature of Evagrian ascetical psychology.
The connection is this with the notion that at least in some cases the passion is excited directly by the mere sense-perception of the object: We defeat the demon by conquering the passion that the demon excites. The defeat of the demon cannot come about except through our liberation from the passion that the demon excites, the passion being taken in the negative sense of an operation of the temper or desire contrary to nature. When that liberation from the passion has come about, then not even the sense-perception of the object can damage us, since there is no longer a passion that the sense-perception itself can stimulate.
An obvious example of the foregoing is this: An ascetic who has conquered the demon of fornication will view the body of a member of the opposite sex, even nude, without passion, and his or her recollection of the sight will be a simple, dispassionate, ‘mere’ recollection.
Immediately below, Evagrius will speak of the emptying of the passions: we will see that this emptying brings in its train an absence of impassioned recollections of objects: the only recollections of objects are then unimpassioned ‘mere’ memories.
Defeating the demon requires, however, not only that we free ourselves from the passion that corresponds to the demon but that we also acquire the virtue that negates the particular passion involved. The liberation from the passion that defeats the demon is accompanied by the positive acquisition of a virtue, the operation of the temper or desire according to nature that negates the particular passion stimulated by the demon. Defeating the demon requires that we pass from the operation contrary to nature of the relevant part of the soul (the passion) to its operation according to nature (the corresponding virtue).
So we have two things involved in the ascetical struggle of purgation: emptying the passions and acquiring the virtues. This purgation takes care of both cases in the passionate acceptance of an object of sense into the mind (nous), the one where the demon plays a role and the one where sense-perception alone acts to bring about the passionate acceptance of the object.
Acquiring the virtue that negates one passion does not necessarily make us immune to temptations from demons related to other passions. Acquiring the virtue of chastity, for example, does not necessarily make me immune to the demons of avarice or vainglory or pride, even though it makes me able to repel the suggestions of the demon of fornication with ease. Hence, emptying the passion and acquiring the virtue must be accomplished for each of the eight most general passions, thoughts and demons.
It should be evident that whatever is involved in this double activity of purging the passions and acquiring the virtues, it is not something that is worked out only at the level of external behaviour, for we are here dealing with the ascetic’s very sense-perceptions, with the ascetic’s very passions (emotions), with the ascetic’s very thought processes. Hence, this ascetical endeavour involves the whole man, and emptying the passions and acquiring the virtues for each of the eight most general passions involves a change in the way the ascetic actually perceives, feels and thinks. It is a very deep activity. It is this very deep activity that Evagrius calls the immaterial war, or, we might say, the war of thoughts:
For the immaterial war
The one waged in the mind (nous) by the demons by means of thoughts. These thoughts have their starting-points in the impassioned recollections of objects of sense. If the ascetic defeats the demons on this battlefield, then he is free.
is more bitter than the war realized in material objects.
The war realized in material objects is the one that centres on our impassioned acceptance or not of the actual object, on our impassioned behaviour in regard to the actual object, and on our impassioned recollection of the actual object.
To see the difference, let us consider the following: I had a watch that I was passionately fond of that I gave to my brother when I became a hermit. Twenty-five years later, the demon of sorrow brings the watch to my remembrance, sowing thoughts of sorrow. The watch is gone. The problem for me, the hermit, is to realize that this recollection of my beautiful watch is impassioned, that a demon is involved, and that I must block the thought of sorrow for the watch with the appropriate Evagrian treatment, lest it continue and evolve and work a serious disturbance in my prayer-life or even in my mental equilibrium. This is the immaterial war.
Second case: I am a layman, and have lent my watch, of which I am passionately fond, to my brother. He likes it too. He wants to keep it. I want it back. We quarrel. We might even scuffle if he is wearing the watch and I try to take it back by force. I am upset. I remember my brother with rancour—he behaved shabbily—and my watch with sorrow—I have lost my beloved watch; I didn’t get it back. The demons are working here, too—through the watch itself, a material object. The demons of avarice, anger and sorrow. This second war, the one realized in material objects, is easier than the first: it is easier for me to conquer the demons in the second war than in the first.
This should give us pause. The second war may not be all that easy; a glance at the front page of any newspaper will convince us of that. However, it is easier than the first war. That is why hermits usually begin in the cœnobium: the cœnobium lays more emphasis on the war waged through objects than does the hermitage; the hermitage lays more emphasis on the immaterial war than does the cœnobium. The would-be hermit can make some sort of progress in the easier war of the cœnobium before advancing to the more difficult immaterial war of the hermitage.
But if I succeed in the first war, the immaterial war, then I will have no problem with the second war, the war waged through objects: I will despise the demon who is sowing the mischief—but not my brother.
The war waged through material objects is entrained by the passionate attachment that we have to the object itself because we originally accepted the sense-perception of the object into our mind with passion. It is I who originally accepted the watch into my mind with passion—perhaps tempted by a demon, although we ourselves find Evagrius to be somewhat ambiguous on the actual role of the demon in the impassioned acceptance into the mind (nous) of the sense-perception of an object.
35 The passions of the soul have their occasions or starting-points from men;
These are: avarice, sorrow, anger, accidie, vainglory and pride.
We will see in TPL 38 and 84 and Gnostic 31 that these passions are associated with the temper (thumos). They do not have the character of being passions of the soul in such a way that they have no connection with the desire (epithumia) or temper (thumos), the way in OTT 18 the passions of man of man seem to be connected with the soul in a non-specific way.
the passions of the body, from the body.
These are gluttony and fornication.
These passions are associated with the desire (epithumia).
The distinction between the passions of the soul and the passions of the body is a primary distinction in Evagrian psychology, since, although the treatment of each passion will certainly depend on its own particular nature, it will also depend on whether it is a passion of the soul or a passion of the body. Passions of the body can be treated by fasting; passions of the soul, not, since they have no real connection to the body. Conversely, passions of the soul can be treated by spiritual charity and meekness, but not passions of the body.
Moreover, Evagrius is making another fundamental distinction. The passions of the body have their occasions or starting-points in the body. The starting-point of gluttony is hunger, a bodily phenomenon; and similarly for fornication. The passions of the soul, however, have their occasions or starting-points in men. Although anger is a boiling of the temper (of the pericardial blood—St Macrina), and this is a bodily phenomenon, the starting-point of anger is not the body: we do not get angry as a natural bodily phenomenon the way we get hungry. Anger has its occasion in men, in people, in others.
Similarly for the other passions of the soul. We do not become avaricious the way we become hungry, nor vainglorious, nor proud, nor sorrowful. These things take their beginnings in men—other men. (Admittedly, sorrow can be engendered by the deprivation of a bodily pleasure, but it is doubtful that fasting will cure anyone of such a sorrow.)
The significance of this is that the passions of the body have a certain natural substrate; we would have to kill the body to remove them utterly once and for all.
The passions of the soul, however, are unnatural in the sense that they do not have this natural substrate in the body. The condition of the body does not play a significant role in the passions of the soul. Hence, theoretically, the passions of the soul might more easily be eradicated. In fact, in the next chapter Evagrius says the opposite:
And continence cuts off the passions of the body, while spiritual charity cuts off those of the soul.
This is basic to the Evagrian method of ascesis. The passions of the body are treated with continence (fasting, bodily chastity and thirst); those of the soul, with spiritual charity or meekness. Note that this has a corollary: continence is ineffective against passions of the soul and spiritual charity is ineffective against passions of the body.
We now begin to get an idea how the passions are emptied: To the bodily passions—gluttony and fornication—we primarily apply continence. To the passions of the soul—all the others—we primarily apply spiritual charity.
The implication is that continence makes it easier for us to refuse to accept with sexual desire the sense-perception of a human body, and to refuse to accept with gluttony the sense-perception of hunger (i.e. the feeling of hunger) or the sense-perception of good food laid before us at table.
Moreover, spiritual charity makes it easier for us to refuse to accept with avarice the sense-perception of gold coins (recall St Anthony), or to refuse to accept with anger an injustice committed against us. The sense-perception of the gold coins and their recollection remain ‘mere’; the sight of the person who has aggrieved us and his recollection do not disturb our equanamity.
By the further principle which Evagrius has enunciated that the arousing, stimulating or using of a passion increases the passion, and that the neglect or disuse of a passion diminishes it, we have an initial idea how the passions are emptied.
However, for the hermit, emptying the passions is a lifelong endeavour. This endeavour entails rejecting thoughts sown by the demons in the mind (nous); these thoughts have their starting-points in the impassioned recollections of objects. Fantasy is not a problem: a monk with fantasy is quite ill: the thoughts must be stopped at their inception in the intellect (dianoia). This is St Hesychios’ specialty, and we will especially deal with it in Volume III, in our discussion of On Sobriety.
36 Those [demons] which rule over the passions of the soul persist until death;
This is important, for it means that however perfect the ascetic becomes, however dispassionate, while he is still in this life he will always be subject to temptations from demons connected to passions of the soul: avarice, sorrow, anger, accidie, vainglory and pride.
those which rule over the passions of the body retire more quickly.
These are gluttony and fornication.
Let us take these statements as being based merely on empirical observation: Evagrius has seen that as the ascetic progresses, the passions of the body retire more quickly, whereas the demons that rule over the passions of the soul persist until death. This means that until death the ascetic is subject to temptations related to passions of the soul.
This chapter of Evagrius raises two problems. The first is the consistency of his typology of the passions—here he divides them into passions of the body and passions of the soul—with his own anthropology; the second is what he meant by the term ‘dispassion (apatheia)’.
The first problem is this: Evagrius in OTT 18 divides the passions into the passions of man as man and the passions of man as irrational animal—but in our view he is speaking of the same passions as here, the moral passions. That is, we think that in OTT 18 the passions being referred to are the eight most general passions that we have just seen listed and discussed by Evagrius here in TPL. These passions are the passions of the practical life and they are therefore the passions of the desiring part and the irascible part of the soul. This analysis agrees with Evagrius in Skemmata 60:
60 All the unclean thoughts bind the mind (nous) either from desire (epithumia) or from anger (thumos) or from sorrow (lupe).
We do not think that these passions have anything to do with the mind (nous), for the demons that trouble the mind (nous) have to do with delusion and ignorance: these are the ‘passions’ of the mind (nous). That this is so can be seen from Gnostic 42 and 43, where the temptations and sins of the gnostic, the one who has attained to dispassion (apatheia) and has passed from the practical life to natural contemplation, clearly are of the nature of temptations to, and sins of, false gnosis.
This means, however, that we disagree with the analysis of Professor Guillaumont in his doctrinal introduction to the critical edition of OTT, where the learned Professor posits that the sins of the ascetic as man, defined by Evagrius as including vainglory, pride, envy and condemnation, pertain to the ascetic’s mind (nous). We sympathize with the learned Professor’s reasoning: the sins of man as man must have something to do with man’s rational nature, and the sins in question include vainglory and pride. However, we ourselves consider the passions of vainglory and pride, which are already included in the typology of the moral passions given here in TPL, a work on the practical life, to be passions of the irascible part of the soul. They are, above all, moral passions and not intellectual ones. That is, we understand the practical life, which leads to dispassion (apatheia), to be concerned with the eight moral passions listed above by Evagrius. Evagrius has provided, here in TPL, a typology which assigns these passions two to the desiring part and six to the irascible part. He makes in TPL only a passing reference to passions and demons related to the mind (nous), in TPL 84. That this should be so is reasonable, since TPL is dedicated to the practical life.
But the question arises: if Professor Guillaumont is wrong, then what does Evagrius mean by his typology in OTT 18 of the sins of man as man and the sins of man as irrational animal, or even, as here in TPL, by his typology of passions of the soul and passions of the body?
Perhaps Evagrius’ attempt to develop a typology of the passions based on these distinctions betrays a recognition that the basic doctrine (let us say, of the Cappadocians) of the passions as tendencies to pleasures of the senses implanted in man with the gift of sense-perception leads to a rather forced treatment of passions such as self-love, pride, vainglory, envy, condemnation and perhaps even avarice—the passions of man as man, the passions of the soul. For it could be argued that these passions are certainly calls to pleasures, but not pleasures of the senses: they have to do with something more basic in man: man taken as a person who can turn to himself in self-exaltation or to the Other in repentance and humility.
It might be possible to view the passions of the soul and the passions of man as man as calls to pleasures of the senses if we take the distinction to be between ‘the flesh’ and ‘the spirit’: between the man of the senses in a general sense and the man of the intelligible in a general sense. Then, in this general sense, pride, vainglory, envy, condemnation and so on would be calls to pleasures of the senses in contradistinction to the pleasures of intelligible things not subject to sense-perception but intuited in contemplation. This would accord with much of what Evagrius says.
As we have already pointed out in Volume I, the moment we accept the notion that there are passions of the soul, or of man of man, that have nothing to do with the temper (thumos) and the desire (epithumia), then we are faced with serious analytical problems in our anthropology and psychology: we have nowhere to place those passions. We are left with the mind (nous), but that is an unsatisfactory solution for the reasons already given. And the solution that there is a soul state of man prior to his embodiment in a human body leads to dogmatic difficulties.
We think that there is some confusion here in Evagrius’ own thought: he has not completely thought through the issue. The best way, we think, to see the typology given in OTT 18 is as an independent metaphor. We would be wasting our time, in our view, to try to tie the analysis in OTT 18 to the anthropology of the tripartite soul that Evagrius develops in the Kephalaia Gnostica. Possibly, Evagrius’ own thought was evolving and he did not realize the inconsistency of what he was saying. We will leave the matter here. The reader is referred to Section 13, Chapter III, of Volume I for a further discussion of this issue; we will also discuss the matter further just below, and in our commentary on OTT 18.
The second problem is related to the first. What does Evagrius mean by the term dispassion (apatheia)? For as we read in Guillaumont,
We think the best way to understand Evagrius’ concept of dispassion (apatheia) is to situate it in his anthropology. For Evagrius, dispassion (apatheia) is the characteristic of the man who has completed the practical life. We read in KG II, 4:
Although the transformations are numerous, we have received the gnosis of four only… The first is … the passage from vice to virtue; the second is that from dispassion to the second natural contemplation…
In the Evagrian system, dispassion (apatheia) is the result of the first transformation. It is the basis of the second transformation. Hence, for Evagrius, dispassion (apatheia) is the attainment of virtue and the putting off of vice; we have already seen that this is the program of ascesis enunciated in TPL and that it applies to the eight most general thoughts or passions that Evagrius has listed in this work.
This interpretation of dispassion (apatheia) should be seen in the context of Evagrius’ heterodox anthropology: when certain of the minds (noes) sinned in the Movement, they were judged worthy to be reduced to the rank of praktike. But for Evagrius, this means that those mind (nous) received, or became, souls. Later, those minds fell further and were given human bodies in addition to their souls. Praktike, which we are referring to in translation as ‘the practical life’, is precisely work on the soul. It is the passage from vice to virtue for each of the eight moral passions listed in TPL. It is the task of minds (noes) which have been reduced to the rank of praktike and given souls and then bodies. When the mind (nous) has completed the task of praktike, then it has attained to dispassion (apatheia) and can enter into the next stage, the transformation from dispassion (apatheia) to the second natural contemplation. That is the beginning of natural contemplation and one step on the road to Theology, the contemplation of the Holy Trinity. Hence, the ascetic is merely carrying out the task of praktike in its fullness: praktike is a task that pertains to all men, who are minds (noes) that have been reduced to the rank of praktike and subsequently been given bodies.
In OTT 10, Evagrius does have a reference to the ‘great and first dispassion’: ‘He hates the enemies with a perfect hatred who neither in action nor in the intellect sins, which very thing is a positive proof of the great and first dispassion.’ Hence,
However, it is worth remarking that St John of Sinai’s concept of dispassion (apatheia), that it is the resurrection of the soul prior to the General Resurrection and a knowledge of God second only to that of the angels, a concept which appears similar to Evagrius’ concept of the ‘great and first dispassion’, and a concept which corresponds to the consummation of the whole mystical journey by the ascetic, is just as open to criticism as the Evagrian concept. And no one has ever criticized the concept of dispassion (apatheia) found in the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John of Sinai. As we have already remarked,
We can purify the heterodox elements from the Evagrian concept of dispassion (apatheia) as follows: Let us take the concept of dispassion (apatheia) to refer to a relative restoration in man of the likeness to God (kath’ homoiosin). Then we do not posit an absolute restoration in this life of the likeness to God, of the kath’ homoiosin; we speak of a tending towards that likeness. Moreover, we restrict the concept of dispassion (apatheia), in order to be consistent with Evagrius’ own psychology, to the eight moral passions that he has listed in TPL. Therefore, we judge the degree to which someone has attained to dispassion (apatheia) to be the degree to which he has passed from vice to virtue in regard to each of the eight moral passions listed above. Since we are not positing an absolute attainment of dispassion (apatheia) in this life, we view the subsequent stages of the mystical ascent as being not so lock-step as Evagrius’ typology of the transformations in the Kephalaia Gnostica would lead us to believe. As the ascetic progresses towards dispassion (apatheia) as we have just redefined it, then he can begin to engage in natural contemplation to a lesser or greater degree. There is a certain simultaneity. This seems to accord with passages that St Hesychios quotes in On Sobriety from St Maximos the Confessor. For there, St Maximos also seems to posit a certain simultaneity of the practical life and natural contemplation, remarking that the more one achieves the first, the more he can attain to the second.
In the Kephalaia Gnostica, Evagrius has a doctrine similar to that of St Maximos—the degree of our gnosis depends on the degree of our purification—but it appears that he is speaking of the gnostic, of him who has attained to dispassion (apatheia) and has entered into natural contemplation. Then, within the stage of natural contemplation, Evagrius seems to be saying, the degree of gnosis that the ascetic attains depends on his degree of purification—but this would be a purification over and above that Evagrian dispassion (apatheia) which in the Kephalaia Gnostica is the precondition for the ascetic’s entry into natural contemplation. Moreover, it may be that it is in this sense that the passages of St Maximos the Confessor quoted in On Sobriety are to be understood.
However, a passage in Pros Eulogion (Towards Eulogios) makes the practical life and the life of natural contemplation into simultaneous activities:
Praiseworthy is that man who has joined the gnostic life (gnostike) to the practical life (praktike) so that out of both springs the field of the soul might be watered towards virtue. For on the one hand the gnostic life (gnostike) gives wings to the mental substance (noeran ousian) in the contemplation of the better things; on the other hand, the practical life (praktike), ‘puts to death the members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, passion, vice, evil desire’ [Col. 3, 5]. Therefore those who have been fenced about by means of both of these things will thereafter easily extinguish the wickedness of the demons.
Evagrius seems to say the same thing in other passages of his works, but not in so unequivocal a fashion. For example in Scholia on Ecclesiastes 8, he says this:
8 It is not with the word that the soul demands gnosis, but with the purity: ‘For not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of the Heavens, but he who does the will of my Father.’ [Matt. 7, 21.] For in proportion to the condition we also receive the gnosis, if indeed, it also will be measured back to us in the measure which we ourselves measure [cf. Matt. 7, 2]. Therefore the intelligible demand is dispassion (apatheia) of a rational soul attracting holy gnosis. Thus, then, he who presents himself as receptive to all gnosis takes nothing away from the eyes. By ‘all gnosis’ I mean that which has the nature to occur to a soul joined to blood and flesh.
Therefore, although the Kephalaia Gnostica seems explicit on the lock-step nature of the transformations, especially the ones from praktike to dispassion (apatheia) and from dispassion (apatheia) to second natural contemplation, there are some indications that Evagrius does indeed view the practical life and the gnostic life as to an extent simultaneous activities, as we ourselves would wish.
In Scholia on Ecclesiastes 46, Evagrius makes a remark:
In this very chapter [of Ecclesiastes], he [i.e. Solomon] speaks concerning those who have been found worthy of dispassion (apatheia) and gnosis, and who have again fallen from [them] by the envy of the Devil.…
Here, Evagrius implies that dispassion (apatheia) and gnosis are things that we can lose.
In Scholia on Ecclesiastes 43, he writes:
43 The ‘he exercised authority over it’ is said [in the passage of Scripture] for the sake of a contrast with those who on the one hand receive a wealth of wisdom and gnosis, but who on the other hand do not preserve it. For the traitor Judas also received intelligible wealth and spiritual goods, but he did not exercise authority over them, having betrayed for the sake of profit the Wisdom and the Truth of God.
Hence, we can take it to be Evagrius’ view that dispassion (apatheia) is something that we can lose and that it does not confer on us an inability to fall: this again is what we want.
Among Christian authors, the Stoic term dispassion (apatheia) is first used by Clement of Alexandria, and he clearly views the gnosis associated with perfect dispassion to be an ideal to which one tends, not an accomplished fact for anyone in this life.
We can therefore view Evagrius’ very pragmatically grounded statement that the passions of the body retire more quickly simply as a statement based on observation that men and women as they grow older are less troubled by the passions of the body. The statement that the demons that rule over the passions of the soul remain until death can also then be seen as a recognition that a man is capable of sinning up to his last breath. If this is not what Evagrius meant, let it be what we mean.
We would then take the typology of the passions in OTT 18 to be merely metaphorical.
Moreover, as we have discussed in extenso in Chapter III of Volume I, we reject the heterodox Evagrian apparatus of the Movement and so forth. The reader who wonders about this should refer to Volume I for a thorough discussion.
And, on the one hand, the other demons are like the sun which rises and sets, laying hold on some one part of the soul; the noonday [demon], on the other hand, has the custom to envelop the whole soul and to suffocate the mind.
Each demon has its own proper work or function (ergon); it excites one passion or another. The demon of fornication does not operate today to sow temptations against chastity and tomorrow to sow temptations to vainglory. Once a demon of fornication, always a demon of fornication. Hence, each of the demons is related to only one part of the soul, and when one or another demon approaches the ascetic, it operates to excite only that part of the soul. The exception is the demon of accidie, which envelops the whole soul, weighing it down to death and strangling the mind (nous) of the ascetic.
Therefore, the anchoretic life is sweet after the emptying of the passions, for, then, the only memories are mere memories, and the wrestling no longer prepares the monk for battle, but for contemplation itself.
‘Therefore’: On the basis of the above somewhat elliptical arguments.
‘The anchoretic life’: We are discussing hermits.
‘Is sweet’: There is a pay-off to all of this: it is the spiritual pleasure of familiar converse with the angels and, finally, the spiritual pleasure of union with God himself.
‘After the emptying of the passions’: The whole point is that the demons excite the passions; and, if there are no passions, then they have nothing to excite. Moreover, this implies that the passions can be emptied. Above, we have spoken of a tending to this goal. We speak of a relative emptying—which itself can be quite significant—but we do not posit that there can be a complete emptying in this life, especially of the passions of the soul. The Evagrian schema itself seems to posit that only the bodily passions can be completely, or at least efficaciously or definitively, emptied in this life.
‘For, then, the only memories’: The demon excites a passion and the ascetic has a memory or recollection of an object of sense. This memory or recollection is charged with the passion that the demon has just excited. Moreover, according to the analysis in TPL 34, above, the object in the recollection is one that the ascetic previously accepted with passion. As we pointed out there, this not need be the same passion, but there must be some Evagrian causal link between the passion with which the ascetic accepted the object and the passion connected to the recollection.
‘Are mere memories’: These are unimpassioned memories. What Evagrius is saying is that it is possible to reach a stage of dispassion (apatheia)—‘after the emptying of the passions’—at which stage the hermit is no longer troubled by impassioned recollections of objects of sense. This is the boundary between the purgative stage of the practical life and the illuminative stage of natural contemplation, but even in Evagrius’ own text, it is not sharply delineated, as will become evident. We ourselves, by removing every concept of an absolute dispassion (apatheia) equivalent to an inability to sin, have made the two stages somewhat more simultaneous, but it should be understood that there is a limit to this simultaneity, and that the monk must make significant progress in the practical life before he can safely dare to enter into natural contemplation. We will see this to be stated by Evagrius himself later in TPL.
‘And the wrestling’: This wrestling with the demons never ceases but its nature changes. This would seem to be an argument against
‘No longer prepares the monk for battle’: The wrestling no longer prepares the monk for battle because he has been purified: that is the purpose of the purgative stage, the stage of the practical life, the stage of the passage from vice to virtue. We ourselves would say that the emphasis changes: the monk, from being primarily concerned with the passage from vice to virtue, becomes primarily concerned with natural contemplation.
‘But for contemplation itself’: This is the stage of natural contemplation, the illuminative stage.
This chapter is on the one hand discussing the connection between the demons and the passions and on the other hand the effect of emptying the passions, which accomplishment allows the monk to enter into the illuminative stage. What can be inferred from it is that the monk’s ascetical goal is to empty himself of the eight moral passions by means of ascesis—to the extent that this is humanly possible given the proviso that Evagrius has enunciated above that the demons which rule over the passions of the soul persist until death, and given our own modifications to the Evagrian doctrine of dispassion (apatheia)—so that the monk can enter into the illuminative stage of natural contemplation.
We have seen that the primary means of diminishing the bodily passions is continence and that the primary means of diminishing the passions of the soul is spiritual charity. It is well to note that elsewhere Evagrius replaces spiritual charity with meekness: they seem to be equivalent when viewed as the primary therapy of the passions of the soul.
It is also well to note that Evagrius, in speaking, as it were, to advanced monks, has passed over more elementary ascetic practices: renunciation of the world; obedience to a spiritual master, an Elder; living abroad as a foreigner under obedience in a community. These matters Evagrius has addressed in his other works, Bases of the Monastic Life and Pros Eulogion (Towards Eulogios), which we have not discussed but the content of which parallels to some extent the content of the lower, and even higher, rungs of the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John of Sinai. Hence, the reader should bear in mind that he should not commence the eremitic life solely with continence and spiritual charity as his goals or tools. There is more to it than that.
To continue, the ascetic, in addition to exercising continence and spiritual charity, wages the immaterial war, that of repelling the thoughts whose starting-points are the impassioned recollections of objects of sense sown by the demons. While there may be some ambiguity about the role of the demon in the initial impassioned acceptance of the sense-perception of the object, Evagrius is clear about, and St Hesychios is consistent with, the notion that the impassioned recollection of the object of sense is provoked by the approach of a demon; we shall see this below. The passion is aroused by the demon and the ascetic subjectively experiences that arousal as the commencement of a thought in his mind (nous). This thought is charged with the passion that the demon has aroused. That passion is precisely the one that that demon permanently has its work or function (ergon) to arouse.
Hence, the ascetic keeps continence, exercises spiritual charity and attends to his thoughts, rebutting the impassioned ones. This is fundamental to the Evagrian spiritual, mystical endeavour.
We must now pose the question: What, according to Evagrius, is a passion? Clearly, we have correspondences passion – thought – demon for each of the passions and there are eight most general thoughts (and, therefore, passions) under which is subsumed every thought (and, therefore, every passion). Hence, the passions have names which convey the nature in general of a passion: gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, anger, accidie, vainglory and pride. These, in the Evagrian system, are clearly contrary to nature.
We would like to say that there is a contrary virtue for each of the passions just listed—and there is—, but following he says his teacher, St Gregory the Theologian, Evagrius will develop his analysis of the virtues on the basis of the parts of the soul, the tripartite soul, and not on the basis of the typology of the passions.
What we can say, then, looking at the above, is this: In Evagrius, a passion is an impulse or tendency contrary to nature which became dominant in our desire or temper on account of the Fall. We do note, however, that in accordance, evidently, with the Cappadocians, Evagrius sees the vicious aspect of the impulses that we find in ourselves to be the result of the deliberate use we make of those impulses.
This impulse contrary to nature charges the ascetic’s thought: the passion of fornication, towards sexual activity either according to nature or contrary to nature; the passion of avarice, towards the gathering of wealth; the passion of vainglory, towards the glory that comes from men.
Although Evagrius himself does not emphasize it in the chapters we are now looking at, these impulses contrary to nature are all tendencies to some pleasure or other of the senses: we need only refer to TPL 4, above. Evagrius does make an exception in OTT 12 for sorrow.
These principles are stated explicitly by Evagrius in Skemmata 51:
51 Pleasure follows every thought with the exception of the thoughts of sorrow.
As we have already pointed out, that Evagrius developed the typologies, passions of the soul – passions of the body and passions of man as man – passions of man as irrational animal, may be an indication that a treatment of all the passions as calls to pleasures of the senses leads to a forced treatment of passions such as self-love, pride, vainglory and so on—the passions of the soul, the passions of man as man. For, as we stated, it could be argued that self-love, pride, vainglory and so on are certainly pleasures, but not of the senses: they have to do with something more basic in man: man is a person who can exalt himself or turn to the Other in humility. However, we also pointed out that in a more general sense these passions could be treated as calls to pleasures of the senses.
This theory of the passions as calls to pleasures of the senses is fundamental to the Evagrian system: the passion is an urge to a pleasure of the senses and the ascetic may respond or not as he chooses. Hence, the typology of the passions is a typology of pleasures of the senses.
Under the influence of the Freudian orientation of modern psychiatry, it is sometimes ignored that the passions all call to pleasures of the senses, even those which are of the body but not sexual, and even those which are of the soul. Each passion conveys an invitation to the ascetic to some pleasure of the senses: anger, fornication, gluttony, vainglory all have an associated pleasure. It is not the same pleasure, certainly, but a pleasure it is. These are the pleasures of the flesh, to use
Hence, we can return to St Macrina’s analysis, and see what is missing: it is the element that the passion conveys a call to one or another pleasure of the senses.
St Macrina calls the passions warts, and so they are, since the whole Evagrian program is for the ascetic to rid himself of them, with the help of Jesus Christ. This last point, the help of Jesus Christ, St Hesychios will greatly emphasize.
In St Macrina’s second analysis, the passions had a use according to nature—anger, against the demons; fear, towards obedience; timidity, towards prudential security—and a use contrary to nature. This use contrary to nature is precisely the call to pleasure—anger, the pleasure of anger against the brother; fear, its own pleasure; timidity, its own.
It is reasonable here to look briefly at St Thomas Aquinas’ model of the passions and how it differs from that of Evagrius. Adapting St Augustine to his radical Aristotelianism, St Thomas defines the passions as intrinsically neutral movements of the passionate part of the soul, the desire (epithumia) and temper (thumos), all of which movements have a basis in the human body. The virtuous or vicious aspect of the movements depends on whether they are under the control of the reason, as always taken in the narrow sense of ratiocination. Hence, the vices are movements of the passionate part of the soul having their basis in the body that are contrary to reason, perhaps because of a lack of rationally defined moderation, whereas the virtues are movements of the passionate part of the soul having their basis in the body that are according to reason, perhaps the same movements as the vices but used with a rationally defined moderation.
Moreover, the passions are analysed by
It would be convenient if Evagrius had the same analysis, for then the problems created by such Evagrian concepts as the passions of man as man and, perhaps, the passions of the soul would disappear. However, Evagrius does not have the same analysis as
The basic differences are these: In Evagrius, the desire (epithumia) seems to be restricted to gluttony and fornication. There is no indication in his works that he would assign avarice to the desire (epithumia). There is certainly no indication that he would assign vainglory or pride to the desire (epithumia).
There is also no indication in his works that he views the temper (thumos) as concerning itself simply with the difficulty of fulfilling our desire or the difficulty of avoiding what is undesirable, although there are a few chapters in the Skemmata which seem to suggest this line of thought:
41 Of the thoughts, some lead while others follow. And those thoughts lead which are from the <desire
(epithumia)>, whereas those thoughts follow which are from the temper (thumos).
42 Of those thoughts which lead, some again go before whereas others follow. And those go before, then, which are from gluttony, whereas those follow which are from fornication.
43 Of those thoughts which follow the first thoughts, some lead whereas others follow. And those lead which are from sorrow (lupe), whereas those follow which are from wrath (orge), if indeed, according to the proverb, ‘A sorrowful word stirs up wraths.’ [Cf. Prov. 15, 1.]
In Evagrius, the temper (thumos) does have a connection to the temper (thumos) in
There is no indication that Evagrius treats all the moral passions as having a substrate in the body. With his acceptance of the Origenist doctrine of the double descent of the mind (nous) into the body, and with his doctrine of the sins of man as man, there are clear indications that he would not at all accept this Thomist position.
Can Evagrius’ psychology be reinterpreted in Thomist categories? That is, could his insights into ascetical psychology be recast in Thomist terms? After a fashion, that was the project of Western post-Thomist ascetical psychology. However, we wonder whether such a recasting would not prevent the Western Christian from using the Philokalia.
In Evagrius’ psychology, the seat of both the mind (nous) and the temper (thumos) is the heart. If we make an identification between ‘heart’ as used by Evagrius and ‘heart’ as used by the Philokalia concerning the place where the mind (nous) is to be brought during mental prayer, an identification that admittedly we do not see explicitly made by the Fathers, then the undeniable fact that, as we shall discuss in Volume III, praying with the mind (nous) in the heart brings the person praying into contact with the deepest strata of his own personhood makes sense, as does the notion that prayer with the mind (nous) in the heart is the most natural form of prayer.
However, given its structure, Thomist psychology makes it impossible to make such a identification naturally. That is why, we think, a Roman Catholic monastic writer discussing prayer of the heart has a quite limited notion: prayer of the heart is for him prayer with the sentiment, as opposed to merely intellectual prayer. Such an approach is consistent with Thomist psychology, which has room only for ratiocination and sentiment. The notion of bringing the mind (nous) into the heart—of the person praying centring his consciousness in (not ‘on’) the heart and thereby entering into the deepest strata of his own personhood—just does not find any correspondence in the psychology of
A reinterpretation of Evagrian psychology in Thomist terms would therefore not be consistent with the psychology of the Philokalia: the categories of thought are different. This would cause some confusion in the interpretation of Philokalic texts on ascesis and prayer.
To continue with the matter at hand, St Macrina spoke, following Plato, of the proper use of the passions under the guidance of reason. We have seen that Evagrius himself repeats this. Evagrius has refined this proper use of the passions to the very custody of the thoughts. St Hesychios will apply this custody of the thoughts to his own spiritual system of the Jesus Prayer prayed in the heart. The reason, however, as we have seen, is something more than ratiocination; it involves the spiritual faculties of a man’s soul.
37 One must attend whether the conception
Perhaps ‘concept’ or ‘idea’ might be a clearer translation of the Greek ennoia. Ennoia is a thought or notion in the mind; it is a different word from that used for the thought sown by the demon, logismos.
sets the passions in motion; or the passions, the conception. For, on the one hand, some have the first opinion; on the other hand, some have the second opinion.
Since Evagrius gives his own answer in the next chapter, 38, let us continue:
38 It is the nature of the passions to be set in motion by the senses.
The passions—here it is well to recall that Evagrius is referring to the eight passions of the desiring and irascible parts of the soul—are inextricably bound up with the senses. That was the key to St Macrina’s analysis of the origin of the passions, as being in the animal soul that man took up from the animals when man was created.
The conception (ennoia) is a thought or idea in the ascetic’s mind. It might have a connection with sense-perception but we ignore that here. The conception (ennoia) is neutral. Hence, the question, evidently a philosophical one, is whether the conception (ennoia) in the mind (nous) excites the passion: I have a conception (ennoia) of gold, heretofore without demonic influence on it, and that conception excites the passion of avarice. Or is it, asks Evagrius, that, since I have the passion of avarice, the passion of avarice sets in motion a conception (ennoia) of gold, again without the intervention of a demon?
Evagrius answers: it is sense-perception that is at the root of the movement of the passions.
This issue must interest us, for it can help us to understand not only the movements of the passions but also the very nature of the passions.
Evidently Evagrius gives his answer in the following sense: It is the sense-perception of the gold coins that sets in motion the passion of avarice. Let us recall that this is the model of the war realized in objects. The immaterial war that is realized in thoughts (logismoi) whose starting-points are impassioned recollections of objects of sense is not addressed here. However, Evagrius has asserted that we can only have such an impassioned recollection of an object of sense if we previously accepted the sense-perception of the object into our mind in an impassioned way. Hence, the senses are indirectly involved when the passions are set in motion by impassioned recollections of objects of sense.
Let us recall that we ourselves earlier raised the issue of whether at the instant that the sense-perception of the object of sense was about to set the passion in motion, a temptation, and therefore a demon, was involved. Evagrius does not discuss that here. He is avoiding that issue here. The passion is set in motion or provoked by the sense-perception of the object of sense—say, the passion of avarice by the sight of the gold coins. Although a demon may very well tempt the ascetic by exciting his passion at the time of the sense-perception, Evagrius also recognizes the case where the ascetic’s own passion or vice is sufficient for the arousal occasioned by the sense-perception to lead to the further stages of temptation and sin. In either case, however, the ascetic has the choice of blocking the arousal of the passion by means of his own thought processes. He can change the subject as it were. However, it must be said that in cases where the passion is very strong in the ascetic, the ascetic may find it very difficult or even uncongenial to block the arousal of the passion.
The passion we said was a call to a pleasure of the senses that corresponded to the particular passion it was. Here we find that the passion is set in motion by the senses. Hence, the passions are impulses set in motion by the senses which call us to pleasures of the senses.
This implies that the pleasure is related to the senses even when a passion of the soul is involved. Vainglory certainly calls to a pleasure, that of being glorified by men, but the senses are not evident. The sense is sight. Let us remark that sight is here a sense in a very broad way: it refers to our perception of ourselves in addition to the primary perception of a sense object—a watch. Perhaps we here see a rather forced treatment of passions of the soul such as vainglory in order to fit them into this model of the passions as impulses to pleasures of the senses initiated by sense-perception. However, if, as we have already pointed out, we look at the pleasures of the senses not narrowly but broadly—as pleasures of the flesh in contradistinction to pleasures of the contemplation of intelligibles—then the treatment is not so forced.
Moreover, if we make use of the insights of modern psychology into the roots of the passions of the adult in his infancy and childhood, then it might easily be assertable that the passion of vainglory, say, is a call to a pleasure of the senses. For if the infant or child experiences the pay-off of vainglory as a pleasure of the senses, might he not then bear that impulse into his adult life? Is that what Evagrius means? He never says anything to that effect. He has no doctrine that ‘the child is father to the man’.
In Skemmata 53, Evagrius does say this:
53 The first of all the thoughts is the thought of self-love (philautia), after which the eight.
‘The eight’ refers to the eight thoughts, the ones with which we are concerned in TPL.
That self-love is the basis of all the passions is certainly a key element in our understanding of the nature of the passions. On the one hand, looking at the infant, we can see that this self-love is associated with pleasurable sensory gratification; on the other hand, self-love is at the heart of the movement of the adult person from love of the Other, and others, to the exaltation of self and exploitation of others.
Given Evagrius’ remark on the primary role of self-love in the genesis of the passions, his analysis in TPL must be taken as a basic analysis that he refines in OTT, the Kephalaia Gnostica and the Skemmata.
In general, the nature and the origin of the passions is a difficult issue. For until today there has been no unanimity among philosophers and psychologists on the matter. As we saw St Macrina to remark,
You yourself have sought this definition that has been discussed in detail by many others already, whatever it is ever necessary to think these things to be, the desiring part and the irascible part: either, united to the soul (psuche) and from the first directly existing in its construction; or, being something other than the soul and at a later time having become incident to us? On the one hand, that these things are to be seen in the soul is confessed by all equally; on the other hand, reason has not yet found with precision a sure understanding concerning these things, whatever it is necessary to think concerning them, but most men still hesitate over various and deluded opinions concerning these things.
On this point things have not changed all that much since St Macrina’s time.
And, if charity
Christian love. Recall from TPL 35 that charity cuts off the passions of the soul.
Similarly, recall that continence cuts off the passions of the body.
are present, the passions will not be set in motion; if these are absent, the passions will be set in motion.
The passions are set in motion by the senses, but, according to their type they can be restrained by charity (passions of the irascible part of the soul, that is, passions of the soul) or continence (passions of the desiring part of the soul, that is, passions of the body).
Continence and charity are two fruits that
It is well to consider here Evagrius’ doctrine that the root of the passions is self-love and that the passions are set in motion by the senses. We can now see that what faces the person, what faces the Christian ascetic, is a deliberate movement from impulses to pleasures of the senses to the exercise of spiritual charity and continence for the sake of the knowledge of God: a deliberate movement from self-love to love of the Other and others and a deliberate movement from self-indulgence to self-control both in regard to food and in regard to sexual gratification.
More than the desiring part, the temper requires medicines, and, on account of this, charity is called ‘great’ [cf. 1 Cor. 13, 13], for it is the rein of the temper.
Here we have a clear statement that the passions of the body are the passions of the desiring part of the soul while the passions of the soul are the passions of the temper.
Note that in Evagrius’ estimation, the temper requires more treatment than the desiring part of the soul.
This very thing
that saint, Moses, in his Physics,
This appears to be an example of Evagrian allegorical interpretation.
symbolically named ‘the battler with the serpent’ [Lev. 11, 22].
We have translated the Greek of the Septuagint (‘ophiomachen’). The sense is that charity battles with the Devil.
This word, ‘charity (agape)’, has an interesting evolution in the Evagrian doctrine of ascesis. For, elsewhere, Evagrius prefers ‘meekness (praoteta)’, and when St Maximos the Confessor takes up Evagrian ideas, he at least sometimes places ‘humility (tapeinosis)’ in place of ‘charity’. By the time St Hesychios has taken up the idea, ‘humility (tapeinosis)’ becomes the preferred word for the basic virtue which repels the Devil. This of course is consistent with the vision that St Anthony had, that only humility is able to conquer the Devil.
39 The soul has the custom to be ignited towards thoughts
Here, ‘thoughts (logismoi)’ refers to the thoughts sown by the demons and whose starting-points are impassioned recollections of objects of sense. This corresponds to the more difficult immaterial war of the hermit.
by consequence of the bad odour
This is a spiritual bad odour.
which prevails among the demons, when, the demons approaching, the soul is seized, having been conformed by the passion which corresponds to the demon which is disturbing it.
We explained much of this above.
The demon approaches and its spiritual emanation or operation (‘bad odour’) takes hold of the soul according to the part of the soul that the demon is able to affect. Recall that each demon has a single work or function (ergon): once a demon of avarice, always a demon of avarice. Hence the demon of avarice by its ‘bad odour’ excites that part of the soul which has to do with avarice. Each demon has its own permanent operation, so that the part of the soul does not change for the same type of demon: each demon always affects the same part of the soul. The only exception is that the bad odour of the demon of accidie envelops the whole soul, not just a part of it.
Hence, the model of temptation in the immaterial war of the ascetic, viewed, as it were, from outside the ascetic, is that a demon approaches near to the ascetic and its spiritual bad odour ignites towards thoughts (in this special sense of thoughts which are sown by the demons and which have their starting-points in impassioned recollections of objects of sense) that part of the soul for which the demon has its own permanent operation. Let us say that the demon of fornication approaches. Its spiritual bad odour excites the passion of fornication and the ascetic—sometimes quite abruptly—begins to have unclean thoughts. According to TPL 38, above, if the ascetic has been keeping continent—fasting, restraining his intake of water; fornication is a passion of the body and can be treated in this way—then the demon will be less successful or not at all.
Let us say that on another day the demon of anger approaches. Its bad odour excites the passion of rancour, and the ascetic begins to recall the face of so-and-so who has behaved badly towards him. If the ascetic has spiritual charity, then the demon of anger will get nowhere or only a short distance.
If the ascetic—the same ascetic—has continence but not charity, then while he might be relatively immune to thoughts of fornication, he might not be at all immune to thoughts of rancour. He might be a relatively chaste but rancorous man. A thoroughly unpleasant fellow. And similarly for the other passions.
The sense of the soul’s ‘having been conformed by the passion which corresponds to the demon which is disturbing it’ is that the consciousness of the ascetic (his intellect or dianoia) is at it were filled with, or conformed by, the air or feel of the passion. From having a clear intellect (dianoia) free of disturbance, the ascetic suddenly passes to having an intellect (dianoia) full of the air of the passion. It is in this air that the soul of the ascetic begins to think (is ‘ignited towards’) demonic thoughts.
We disagree with the interpretation of this chapter by the Guillaumonts, that Evagrius is referring to the voluntary rebuttal of, and not to the involuntary inception of, the demonic thought. Moreover, we have translated the Greek word ‘antilambanetai’ as ‘is seized’, not ‘perceives’, to convey that the inception of the demonic thought is an involuntary event in the consciousness or intellect (dianoia) of the ascetic; in this again, we have not followed the Guillaumonts, who interpret the Greek word as ‘perceives’. That construal of the word would suggest, given our interpretation of the chapter, that the inception of the demonic thought were under the voluntary control of the ascetic. Moreover, it is only much later in his spiritual career that the ascetic is able to perceive spiritually the approach of the demon as something distinct from the actual inception of the demonic thought that manifests the demon’s approach.
Our interpretation of this chapter agrees with KG V, 78:
V, 78 The bodies of demons do not increase or decrease; and a strong bad odour accompanies them, by which they also set in motion our passions, and they are easily known by those who have received from the Lord the power to perceive this odour.
Note that Evagrius places a greater weight on the passions related to the temper than on the passions related to the desiring part of the soul. This is not because he is indifferent to chastity, but because he sees the temper as a longer-term problem, until death: it is intrinsically more difficult to treat the temper. In Gnostic 31 he actually advises those who teach others to exhort the elderly monks to control their temper and the younger monks to control their belly, for the reason that the demons related to the soul battle the elderly monks more, whereas the demons related to the body battle the younger monks more:
31 Exhort the elders, on the one hand, to control the temper; the young men, on the other hand, to control the belly. For the demons which pertain to [the passions of] the soul battle the former more; the demons, however, which pertain to [the passions of] the body, more the latter.
Evagrius has here made a clear identification between the passions of the temper or irascible part of the soul, and the passions of the soul; and between the passions of the desiring part of the soul, and the passions of the body. There also exist demons related to the mind (nous) having to do with ignorance and delusion, something that does not seem to be contemplated in St Macrina’s first analysis of the passions as warts on the nature of the mind (nous). We have referred to these above. We can see, however, that they have not had any role to play in Evagrius’ analysis up to here. The reason, of course, is that the demons that Evagrius is discussing in TPL are those related to the practical life, whereas the demons related to the mind (nous) are those related to the stages of natural contemplation and Theology.
In TPL 38, Evagrius states that the passions are set in motion by the senses. In TPL 39, he states that the thoughts are set in motion by the spiritual ‘bad odour’ of the demons. What are we to understand by these two statements?
Certainly the passion in its normal operation is set in motion by the senses. I see something and I want it; I see a beast and I am frightened; I hear chanting of the psalms and I am calmed; I hear rock music and I am agitated and my desire is excited.
Is the ‘bad odour’ of the demons an attempt by Evagrius to fit the demons into the sense-perception model? We do not know. A demon might have a bad odour, but surely Evagrius would not assert that it is a sensible bad odour; he is far too sophisticated for that. It is a spiritual emanation. An operation at a distance. A demonic energy. An influence. But not a sensible thing that can be perceived with the bodily senses.
What are we to make of this demonology, quite in fashion on
It is the model that ascetics invoke, and men with the spiritual charism of the discernment of spirits. They find it exact.
In the Skemmata, Evagrius introduces some qualifications to his doctrine that the thoughts (logismoi) are set in motion by the demons. For example, in Skemmata 48, Evagrius says this:
48 Of the thoughts, some are given birth from the soul when it is set in motion; others, however, come to occur from without, by the agency of the demons.
Here, Evagrius is acknowledging that some thoughts are due not to the external influence of the demons but to a movement of the ascetic’s own soul. For since it has free will, the soul can be set in motion without an external agency.
Moreover, in Pros Eulogion (Towards Eulogios) Evagrius says this:
On the one hand, the thoughts (logismoi) sometimes draw to themselves the passions; on the other hand, the passions sometimes [draw to themselves] the thoughts (logismoi). In that case, the thoughts (logismoi) also war against the soul by means of the passion.
This is a somewhat isolated remark of Evagrius not to our knowledge repeated elsewhere. It seems to suggest that the ‘conception (ennoia)’ that Evagrius referred to in TPL 38 can in some circumstances excite the passion directly, without the aid of a demon or even without the aid of sense-perception. However, throughout his works the thrust of Evagrius’ analysis is the inception of a thought (logismos) under the external influence of a demon, just as he is discussing in this chapter of TPL, with secondary reference to the role of the senses in setting the passions in motion.
Can we summarize Evagrius teaching on the passions?
It is difficult to do so. The relation between passion, object of sense and the impassioned memory of the object is clear enough. The distinction between passions of the body, or desiring part, and passions of the soul, or irascible part, and their starting-points—from the body and from men, respectively—is clear. The roles of continence and charity are also clear.
That the demons that rule over the passions of the soul persist until death—which implies that the passions also persist—is clear, as is the possibility that the passions of the body retire more quickly.
That the emptying of the passions—here we understand: most or all of the bodily passions, and some or most of the passions of the soul—marks the transition from the purgative stage of purification of the eight most general moral passions to the illuminative stage of natural contemplation we grasp. That we must be careful not to assert that dispassion (apatheia) confers on us an inability to sin we understand. That it is better to treat dispassion (apatheia) as a state of return to the likeness to God (kath’ homoiosin) in regard to the eight moral passions under consideration, a condition to which we tend without ever in this life achieving in its fullness, we have concluded.
That the temper requires more medicines than the desiring part, and that the greatest medicine for the temper is charity—or meekness, or humility—we also grasp.
The model of the approach of the demon whose bad odour sets the passion in motion is clear.
We do not understand what a passion is though. We are left with St Macrina’s model, the second one, the one which explains how the passions came to be in the creation of man. In this model, the passions are treated as impulses of the animal soul given to man in his creation along with sense-perception, impulses that are not in themselves vicious: it is the use that the mind (nous) makes of these impulses that makes them either virtuous or vicious. We like this model. And we found in Chapter III of Volume I that that is precisely what Evagrius himself says in the Kephalaia Gnostica.
Moreover, Evagrius’ program to empty the passions dovetails into St Macrina’s first model, where the passions are warts on the true nature of the soul. As we saw in Chapter II of Volume I, Evagrius has a remark in Scholia on Ecclesiastes 15 which is consistent with this model:
He says: ‘He gave to them the Age also,’ [cf. Eccl. 3, 2] that is, the reasons (logoi) of the Age. For this is the Kingdom of the Heavens which the Lord said that we have within us [cf. Luke 17, 21], which, being covered by the passions, is not found by men.
Here, Evagrius is talking about the passions as movements contrary to nature of the desiring and irascible parts of the soul. In an Orthodox interpretation, these movements contrary to nature are the result of the Fall of Adam.
Moreover, we add Evagrius’ insight that these movements contrary to nature of the desiring and irascible parts of the soul are all calls to pleasures of the senses.
Hence, we are left with the conclusion that the passions are tendencies implanted in the human body and soul by the Creator together with sense-perception; that before the Fall these tendencies all had an operation according to the purpose of the Creator—according to nature—whereas after the Fall, their operation is often contrary to nature, towards a pleasure of the senses; and that the passions can be set in motion in a way contrary to nature by the senses, by the vices that a man has, by his memory or by the approach of a demon.
However, as we have pointed out, it might be considered that, unless we make reference to the development of the passions of the adult in his infancy and childhood, something that Evagrius himself does not do, or even the Cappadocians, the treatment of the passions of the soul or of man as man—that is, passions such as self-love, pride and vainglory—as calls or impulses to pleasures of the senses might seem a little forced. We are here before the fact that men are persons: there is a ‘something’ in a man that cannot be reduced to the animal nature, a ‘something’ that gives the man a tension between loving himself, rejecting God, exploiting others and indulging the calls to pleasures of the senses that he does have; and denying himself, loving God, loving others and restraining those calls to pleasures of the senses for the sake of the gnosis of God. In this broad context of the existential tension in the man between the flesh and the spirit, it can be seen that the passions are calls to pleasures of the senses.
The ascetical program, based as it is on the deliberate intention of the ascetic to love God, to love others and to restrain calls to pleasures of the senses, empties the body and soul of tendencies which are contrary to nature and restores the corresponding parts of the body and soul to their operation according to nature—as God intended—through the acquisition of the virtues. This is the restoration of the ascetic to the likeness to God, the attainment to the kath’ homoiosin, here discussed at the basic level of the practical life, the life concerned with the moral passions of the desire and the temper.
Since TPL deals only with the first part of the ascetical endeavour, the practical life, it does not deal with the full restoration of the likeness to God (kath’ homoiosin): there are two further stages, those of natural contemplation and of Theology, that the ascetic must pass through in order to restore the likeness to God (kath’ homoiosin) in himself in its fullness. Recall, however, that this partial restoration of the image of God that is the result of the practical life is on the one hand the presupposition of the other two stages—only a foolhardy monk would proceed to natural contemplation without serious work on the passions; this is true even given our own modifications of Evagrius’ doctrine of dispassion (apatheia) to make the practical life and the gnostic life somewhat more simultaneous activities—and that it is on the other hand consummated by the reception of divine grace by the ascetic so that the virtues might be established in him. For after the Fall of Adam, divine grace is needed for the restoration of the tendencies of the body and soul to their operations according to nature. This divine grace is manifested at its most basic level as that continence and spiritual charity given in baptism which restrain the moral passions so that the man might lead a basic Christian life; however, it has more elevated degrees that Evagrius will discuss further on.
We call the condition of the relative restoration of the image of God through acquisition of the virtues corresponding to the eight moral passions of the desiring part and the temper, dispassion (apatheia). We recognize, however, that Clement of Alexandria, St Diadochos of Photike and St John of Sinai use the term dispassion (apatheia) for the state that the monk attains when he has completed all three stages of the mystical ascent, when he has been completely renewed by Theology, when he has completely attained the fullness of the kath’ homoiosin.
It should be remarked that as a rule, although not consistently, we ourselves use the terms ‘asceticism’, ‘ascesis’ and so on to designate the program of restoration of the kath’ homoiosin at the basic level of the practical life concerned with the moral passions; and that as a rule we use the terms ‘contemplation’, ‘contemplative psychology’ and so on to designate the program of restoration of the kath’ homoiosin at the level of natural contemplation and Theology.
The next fourteen chapters, 40–53, are called Counsels. They are discussions of specific cases and points which round out or flesh out Evagrius’ analysis up to now. Evagrius then has three chapters, 54–6, on dreams and sleep and dispassion (apatheia); he then turns to discuss the more advanced degrees of the purgative or practical stage.
 TPL 39, below, analyses this.
 In the sense that we will study in Volume III.
 TPL 77, below.
 TPL 24, above.
 OTT 40.
 The Sayings of the Desert Fathers goes on that the ascetic might glorify God for his creation, but that is beyond what Evagrius is talking about here.
 See Chapter II of Volume I.
 The present discussion assumes that the distinction ‘passions of the body’ – ‘passions of the soul’ is not equivalent to the distinction ‘passions of man as irrational animal’ – ‘passions of man as man’ that Evagrius discusses in OTT 18. See our discussion immediately below.
 Evagrius, however, has already remarked in TPL 8 that the demon of fornication can attack more strongly those who are keeping continent. It is on a long-term basis that continence makes it easier for us to reject thoughts of fornication and gluttony; similarly for the other passions and their therapies.
 See Appendix 1.
 OTT G pp. 11–13.
 Envy and condemnation are ordinarily considered to be subtypes of pride.
 Guillaumont pp. 66–9.
 See Appendix 2.
 See Sections 6 and 13, Chapter III, of Volume I.
 Ladder G Step 29, 2; = Ladder E Step 29, 4.
 See, e.g., Diadochos Chapter 89; see also Chapter V of Volume I of the present study.
 See Volume III, commentary on On Sobriety 75.
 E.g. KG V, 57 and V, 75.
 Sinkewicz p. 319 (Greek); = Migne 79, col. 1112D; our translation.
 This is a reference to the passage of Ecclesiastes on which Evagrius is commenting.
 Ekklesiasten pp. 70–2.
 Ekklesiasten p. 142, ll. 1–3.
 Ekklesiasten p. 138.
 Cf. Paidagogos I, 52, 2–3 p. 204.
 But see Section 13, Chapter III, of Volume I and below.
 His ‘first renunciation’—see OTT 26.
 What St John of Sinai calls ‘sojourning as a stranger’—Step 3 of the Ladder.
 See TPL 34.
 See TPL 39.
 In Skemmata 48, Evagrius introduces a qualification to this doctrine; we will discuss it under TPL 39, below.
 We ignore here Evagrius’ heretical cosmological system which we have discussed it in Chapter III of Volume I.
 We saw this in Chapter II of Volume I in St Macrina’s development of her psychology, and looked at Evagrius’ version of it in Section 6, Chapter III, of Volume I, in his anthropology as found in the Kephalaia Gnostica.
 Recall that the operation of the desire according to nature is towards God and virtue, not towards sexual activity, even sexual activity according to nature.
 See Chapter IV of Volume I. St Thomas Aquinas begins his ‘Treatise on the Passions’ in the Summa Theologiae, Subpart I of Part II, Question 22 (ST Ia IIae, 22).
 St Thomas Aquinas’ terminology is slightly different but his basic meaning the same.
 Following Harmless p. 527.
 Cf. Section 6, Chapter III, of Volume I.
 We will later assert that OTT is an earlier work than TPL. If we take TPL to be a later summary for beginners, then that does not conflict with the notion that the analysis of TPL is refined in OTT.
 See Chapter II of Volume I.
 See the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
 See their translation of this chapter in TPL G, together with the accompanying notes.
 Cf. TPL 6.
 See Chapter II of Volume I.
 Sinkewicz p. 318 (Greek); = Migne 79, col. 1109A; our translation.
 See Sections 6 and 13, Chapter III, of Volume I. For the issue of the passions of man as man that we discuss in Section 13, Chapter III, of Volume I, see just below.
 Ekklesiasten p. 82, ll. 18–21.