Logismoi (Greek: λογίσμοι lo-yeez-mee, Russian: помыслы) is a term used to describe assaultive or tempting thoughts.
Logismoi in the Writing of the Fathers
Evagrius Ponticus (c.346-399), originally from Pontus, on the southern coast of the Black sea in what is modern-day Turkey. He served as a lector under St. Basil the Great and was made deacon and archdeacon under St. Gregory the Theologian. In order to deal with his sin, Evagrius retreated to the Egyptian desert and joined a cenobitic community. As a classically-trained scholar, Evagrius recorded the sayings of the desert monks and developed his own theological writings.
Evagrius developed a comprehensive list in 375 AD of eight evil thoughts (λογισμοι), or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behavior springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation.
The eight patterns of evil thought are:
- and pride.
While Evagrius did not create the list from scratch, he certainly refined it. Some two centuries later in 590 AD, Gregory the Dialogist would revise this list to form the more commonly known Seven Deadly Sins, where St. Gregory the Great rolled acedia (discouragement) & tristitia (sorrow) into a newly defined sin of Sloth; Vainglory a part of Pride; and added Envy to the newly defined "Seven Deadly Sins".
St. Hesychios the Priest
St. Hesychios the Priest writes the following in the Philokalia: 'If we have not attained prayer that is free from thoughts [logismoi], we have no weapon to fight with. By this prayer I mean the prayer which is ever active in the inner shrine of the soul, and which by invoking Christ scourges and sears our secret enemy'
Logismoi in Modern Teaching
Fr. Maximos of Mount Athos
Fr. Maximos (Moschos?) of Mount Athos is quoted extensively on the subject of logismoi in Kyriakos Markides' book, Mountain of Silence. Fr. Maximos describes five stages of logismoi as detailed in the teachings of the Fathers of the Church:
- Assault - the logismoi first attacks a person's mind
- Interaction - a person opens up a dialogue with the logismoi
- Consent - a person consents to do what the logismoi urges him to do
- Defeat - a person becomes hostage to the logismoi and finds it more difficult to resist
- Passion or Obsession - the logismoi becomes an entrenched reality within the nous of a person
Fr. Maximos explains that no sin is committed until the stage of Consent, though he warns that if a person is of weak temperment, they are unlikely to be able to resist the logismoi at the Interaction stage.
Fr. Maximos teaches that the best way to combat logismoi is to be indifferent, to ignore them. He suggests that a person should pray to combat logismoi, but only when not overcome by fear.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos writing in Orthodox Psychotherapy says: 'When the Fathers speak of `thoughts'(logismoi), they do not mean simple thoughts, but the images and representations behind which there are always appropriate thoughts.'
Referring to an impressive list of patristic writers--including Hesychios the Priest, St. Gregory of Sinai, St. Maximus the Confessor, Evagrius Ponticus, St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Diadochos of Photike, St. Thalassios, St. John of the Ladder, and St. Barsanuphius--explains the concept of logismoi, the difference between simple thoughts and "images with thoughts," that logismoi are caused by warfare with the devil, consequences of evil thoughts, and the cure for evil thoughts.
Met. Hierotheos' project in Orthodox Psychotherapy is bound up with battling and curing evil thoughts. He outlines a preventative plan that includes "watchfulness, attentiveness, hesychia, and cutting off evil thoughts." For a person already ill with evil thoughts Met. Hierotheos outlines a program of avoiding agitation, cutting off evil thoughts, not letting thoughts persist, chasing them away by prayer, the reading of Scripture and lives of the saints, and creating good thoughts.
- Markides, Kyriacos C. Mountain of Silence. New York: Image, 2002.
- Logismoi, Aaron Taylor
- 'On Watchfulness and Holiness' 21, The Philokalia, Vol. I, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, et al. London: Faber, 1979, p. 165.
- Orthodox Psychotherapy - Logismoi, Met. Hierotheos Nafpaktos
- [] Includes an excerpt from Markides' Mountain of Silence