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Logismoi ('lo-yeez-mee') is a term used to describe assaultive or tempting thoughts.


Logismoi in the Writing of the Fathers

Evagrius Ponticus

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 gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, discouragement, anger, vainglory, and pride. While he did not create the list from scratch, he certainly refined it. Some two centuries later in 590 AD, Pope Gregory I, "Pope Gregory The Great" would revise this list to form the more commonly known Seven Deadly Sins, where Pope 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' 'On Watchfulness and Holiness' 21, The Philokalia, Vol. I, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, et al. [London: Faber, 1979], p. 165)

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.


External Links

  • [[1]] Includes an excerpt from Markides' Mountain of Silence
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