Evagrius Ponticus: Apatheia

Discussion in 'Theology' started by Nick_A, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    1 John 4

    1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    My recent bout with righteous indignation has be pondering once again the question of apatheia which means freedom from emotions. It is important to Stoicism that believes such freedom allows reason to dominate as it should leading to an orderly individual and societal life.

    However, Christianity and in this case Evagrius ponticus, apatheia takes on an additional dimension.

    Evagrius Ponticus lived and wrote during the fourth century



    Simone Weil illuminates this observation:

    What profound insights! It is obvious how far we are from them since we so often glorify this demonic form of emotional expression as "justified."

    John says to test the spirits. How do we acknowledge Jesus coming in the flesh? We do it by allowing the Spirit to enter. These lower emotion cannot remain dominant while in such a state of conscious attention. However it invites the higher forms or sacred impulses of faith hope and love to replace these lower emotional forms.

    What wonderful psychology! Instead of the normal suppression and guilt, we are invited to name these emotions within us by shining the light of attention on them, to witness them from above.

    I'll stop here for now since I don't know if anyone cares about such things. Apatheia also exists in the Eastern traditions as detachment. It is typically human that even though all the great traditions caution us on emotions, we insist on glorifying them as with righteous indignation.

    It makes me wonder if Evagrius was ahead of his time or we are behind the times but it does seem as a whole we don't know how to deal with these "demons" or even being aware of the benefit in doing so.
     
  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I don't have a great deal to add, just a few humble observations if I may:

    I did not recall that emotional detachment was from the Stoics, but that does seem to make sense.

    I do agree both in principle and in practice that detaching oneself emotionally clears the mind to work more objectively, fairly, equitably and logically. But it *is* a tall order, that only a small percentage of people in my experience are capable of doing on a regular basis. Fighter pilots come to mind, astronauts, seasoned military veterans...these are the kinds of people who can be dispassionate in their judgments. One would hope trial court law judges would be able to as well, and I think the majority do try.

    The last point I would make though is that most people are not swayed by logic and reason, they are swayed by emotions. Nobody understands this better than a politician. Wisdom in my humble opinion is in knowing of both dispassionate judgment and impassioned pleas, and when and where are the correct times for each.
     
  3. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Juan

    Just for the record, here is a link to Stoicism and apatheia:

    Apatheia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Yes emotions can be mechanically suppressed. However apatheia from the Christian perspective requires consciously witnessing them so as to create the space for the Spirit. this is far different then mechanical suppression.


    Metropolitan Anthony sheds light on this in Jacob Needleman's "Lost Christianity"


    There is no suppression here based on conceptions of good and bad but rather becoming open.

    I agree. It is why ethics based on logic must fail. Our acquired negative emotions do not allow it. We say one thing and do another depending on our emotional states. It is like a man trying to produce an erection based upon logic. It won't happen reqardless of wishful thinking.

    Christianity has the potential to allow the Spirit to heal the heart. But we rarely IMO experience Christianity but rather assert "beliefs."
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    I heartily agree. I would suggest this process is metanoia. We have to recognise our condition before we can appreciate the necessity of the cure. This condition comes under the blanket term of 'sinfulness', if understood properly as suffering privation from a full life in the spirit.

    How we deal with the problem then marks the difference between a spiritual or sociological solution. For the Christian, there is only one Salvation, and that is in Christ, and no other:

    John 15:5 "I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing."

    +++

    The quote from a discussion by Needleman, in the context he presents it, I find contradictory:
    'Emotion' is not a theological term, it is a secular one, from low Latin. The proper theological term, from the Greek, is 'passion'.

    But the destruction of the passions is not apatheia — the death of movement in the being and the death of the will (which moves it). This is not technically correct of apatheia, it is a definition of acedia, one of the demons of which Ponticus speaks.

    Apatheia is not passionlessness — this is an error that dates back to Jerome. In the Byzantine Theological Tradition apatheia is the state of serenity brought about by the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not an absence, it is peace in the Presence of God.

    "He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he pray entirely without distraction loves God truly"
    (Centuries on Love, II, 1).

    Prayer is a movement towards God, prayer is a passion, an emotion, of an order proper to the nature of the soul.

    The error is the implicit acceptance of dualism, of 'higher' and 'lower' within the person, as if the lower has no place in God – that is pagan gnosticism.

    For Evagrius, the spiritual life is about attaining the purity of mind from which we have fallen ... a state we cannot attain of ourselves. For Maximus, the the spiritual life is about living in that purity of mind, which is love. Our fallen state engenders self-love, which separate us from God. This the Fathers call philautia:

    Centuries on Love, II, 8.

    So Maximus seems to say the same as Metropolitan Antony, but read on ...

    So it's not a case of killing the passions/emotions, bur reorienting them towards their proper purpose and function. Back to faith again, and a solution not quite so necessarily violent as Needleman suggests.

    In the Parable of the Rich Young Man, Jesus says: "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me" (Matthew 19:21). The normal reading is to give up all one's worldly or sensible possessions ... but the deeper psychological reading, is to give up one's intellect and one's will — the treasures of self — and follow another, namely Jesus, and this is faith, it's not a question of simply giving up (this is suppression) but of passing beyond those distractions — this is true apatheia — into God.

    "And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved?" (v25). This shows we are not talking about worldy possessions, for they had already given up everything to follow Jesus, so if it was just that, they would see no problem, but they see deeper.

    "And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible." (v26).

    This is why we insist on a dependency upon God, and not man, nor any device of man's devising, to gain eternal life. Matthew 11:29 "Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls." This rest is true apatheia, and only in Christ will you find it.

    +++

    St Maximus the Confessor, who championed Evagrius, says this:
    "Centuries on Love" I, 2. cf "Maximus the Confessor" Andrew Louth.

    Thomas
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —
    Other way round, apatheia is the Byzantine term for what we in the West call Detachment.

    Then again, to suppress them is equally unhealthy. The right way is the middle way, everything in its proper place.

    There is even a place for righteous indignation, if one thinks about the cleansing of the temple!

    Well, I would say Evagrius was in tune with his times, but in the timelessness of the Spirit ...

    ... but there is a wealth of spiritual insight and information on this: The four volumes of the Philokalia is more than a lifetime's work, in fact each volume is more than a lifetime's work ...

    I do indeed, but I am drawn to what those who evidently live in the Spirit have to say about the Spirit, and I discern between the two.

    There is much to be learned about 'logismoi' (Gk wrong reason) and alongside this the 'discriminating will' the 'gnomic' will, as the Fathers call it.

    There are a couple of texts on orthodox psychology online. Google logismoi.

    Thomas
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The aim of the ascetic struggle for Evagrius is to purify the mind — as a faculty of the soul — and prepare it for prayer.

    The struggle of the ascetic is against the emotions, or theologically, the 'passions'; moods or desires that come upon us, and disturb or distract us, and which become habits when they do so repeatedly, and eventually obsessively.

    Evagrius used 'logismoi' to describe the passions. Technically the term means 'wrong logic' but Evagrius uses it in the subjective sense of wrong 'thoughts', or rather wrong trains of thought, set in motions by one or more of the passions.

    Evagrius also speaks of demons, who stir, or in fact disturb, the natural order of the passions in the first place. Passions in themselves are not necessarily wrong or evil — angels stir the passions towards God, for example. Maximus, for example, was described as having 'a passion for God', and Eckhart as 'God intoxicated'.

    According to Evagrius, there are eight logismoi: gluttony, fornication, avarice, grief, anger, accidie, vainglory and pride.

    Evagrius follows the Platonic tripartation of the soul:
    The rational — the intellect (nous, in the Greek);
    The incensive — the will (the source of the soul's energy);
    The desiring — the sensible (the apetites).

    Sin then is the inversion of the proper order. The will should direct the soul, or energise the soul, towards the good, and God, according to right reason, recta ratio as the scholars say. (Rather than revelation, which man cannot orchestrate.)

    In the sinner, the will is directed towards the apetities, that is towards itself as a good, it seeks to know itself, rather than the good of itself, which resides in God, as man's good is synonymous with man's end, and the end of all things is in God.

    Gluttony, fornication and avarice (all passions aroused towards an external object) are passion that affect the desiring or sensible soul.
    Grief and anger affect the incensive part of the soul, the will.
    Vainglory and pride affect the rational part of the soul, the intellect.
    Accidie affects the whole soul in all its aspects.

    This is a pathology of the soul, the analysis and structure is diagnostic — if one understands what is wrong, then one can learn how to deal with it.

    The intense focus on ascetic struggle is central to the monastic life, and the remedies that poured from the great houses are many, and they are conveyed in many ways: In the East we find them in The Paradise of the Desert Fathers, for example, or in the Philokalia. In the Slavic Traditions we have The Way of the Pilgrim and a focus on The Prayer of Simplicity. In the West we find them again in the great monastic traditions — of St Benedict, St Dominic, St Francis and St Ignatius. The list of saints and scholars who contribute great spiritual direction and nourishment on these matters are too numerous to mention.

    A manual of inestimable value in the West was, until recently, The Imitation of Christ, by St Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471). This spiritual classic was a bestseller (often second only to the Bible) for some five hundred years. Today it is available in 50 languages, yet all but forgotten in the West. Why? Because it's tenor does not suit the modern, self-orientated sensibility, it has 'gone out of fashion', as if spiritual truth has a shelf-life...

    'The truth', as the man says, 'is out there.'

    Thomas
     
  7. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Hi Thomas

    There may be one way for the Christian but what does it mean? As you know I believe Christianity is a vine that serves the same purpose as Jacob's Staircase that connects heaven and earth. Salvation is along the ladder even if it is the bottom rung. It just means it is good seed that has formed a connection to higher nourishment so is saved rather then just decomposing and further involuting into creation.

    Emotion may not be a theological term to you but who are we to argue with Metropolitan Anthony if he wants to use it? If you consider the myriad of definitions for theology, what is an appropriate term?

    define:theology - Google Search

    Now this is very interesting. Don't forget that Metropolitan Anthony said that emotions must be destroyed "in order to reach feelings." This raises the obvious question of the difference between emotions and feelings.


    Metropolitan Anthony suggests that apatheia can lead to he experience of feelings and you say it can lead to serenity. Does this mean the same to you?

    Acedia seems to be more a type of spiritual laziness where higher meaning is no longer felt. Apatheia is the result of a high quality of attention which is really the opposite.

    Perhaps the experience of these "feelings" can help awaken the budding soul to its hunger before being dominated by our corrupt egotism?

    As usual she hits the mark. The experience of "feelings" awakens the soul that has been sleeping and starving so then can become passionate in its desire to grow: "to be."

    But for the passion of the soul to arise, the passions of normal personality have to become passive. We normally pray from our emotions. How to pray is a big question. Simone Weil defined prayer as:
    From the linked article

    In 1985 Simon Tugwell attempted to take a more detailed look at Evagrius’s concept pertaining to the levels of mind. Tugwell has an adapted understanding of nous. “It is not emotionless which Evagrius wishes to inculcate, but a state of harmony in which all our faculties are doing precisely what they were created to do, so that they do not disturb our equilibrium or hinder the proper clarity which the mind should have.”12 Tugwell agrees with Evagrius’s notion of 3 levels of mind. He knows that in order for one to reach the highest level of mind, they must first be aware of the truth. However we must be attentive, as this is the point at which the demons will try to inhibit us from moving any further. It is important that we not falter to such attempts. If the demon of anger wants us to feel angry at someone else, it is important that we pinpoint that anger and recognize it for what it is and become free from our passions. “Instead we should turn our anger precisely against our thoughts and against the demons who deploy them.”13 In this way, Tugwell is almost just reiterating everything that Evagrius has previously mentioned. He recognizes and defines prayer as “putting away thoughts.” But he understands as Evagrius did, that there is a process, and that one cannot simply wake up one day and jump into nous. Successful prayer is dependant on completion of the steps.

    The quality of attention that can allow us the state of apatheia harmonizes the entire human organism. It allows us to "put away thoughts" that only keep us in psychological prison. We sacrifice conscious attentive thinking for repetitive associative thought that only serves to justify ourselves.

    It may seem that way to you but I believe the earthly body of Jesus returned to dust and his resurrection was of a different materiality natural for the "spiritual body."



    But "nous" uses the body for its purposes as opposed to the body and its personality using us for its purposes. I like the description of man the piano playing describing the relative qualities of mind.



    With us, the piano plays us.

    I see it as giving up ones psychological attachments. A Christian needs to acquire will but do do this he first must surrender what we believe to be our will. Before surrendering our intellect we have to know what to surrender..

    IMO it isn't a matter of giving up the intellect but rather learning how to use our intellect beyond its lowest level of dualistic asociative thought?

    Can a computer be a Christian even though it is programmed with all sorts of theology? No. It lacks the intellect of consciousness.
    It is one thing to give up our will but another to recognize the truth of higher will. All sorts of cults are created by people giving up their will and intellect but what good is it? I'm suggesting that these concepts are far more subtle than we usually believe.

    I've given up trying to explain the fallacy of following what feels good. Much of New Age religion is a based on this philosophy and a natural rebellion against the hypocrisy of traditional religion but can lead to an even worse result.

    2 Corinthinas 11

    Christianity will always be attacked by experts. There is nothing to be gained by just blindly trusting and surrendering will before being able to become able to discriminate between qualitative influences.

    This is our basic disagreement. I agree with the distinction between emotion and feelings as being of an entirely different origin and quality rather then just being reoriented.

    These feelings cannot originate with us but rather are qualities natural for awakened humanity that we can become open to with the help of the Spirit.
     
  8. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Hi Thomas

    Regardless of names, I believe this is ancient knowledge that was virtually known from the beginning by a minority.

    What is the right place for a lie? Negative emotions are based on inner lies. Without them we would not be controlled by negative emotions. A conscious being like Jesus can play a role when necessary. Anger didn't control him but rather he communicated in a way people could understand.

    There is a huge difference between believing that "I am angry" and "anger is within me." In the former, we are completely attached to anger. We don't exist. In the latter we experience that anger is within us and we are still separate from it to appreciate it and eventually become able to transform it.

    Agreed. He seems to have remembered. I've read that the path doesn't teach one anything new but rather allows us to remember what has been forgotten. Could it be any different for objective knowledge that is alive within our being?
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    This is not Christian doctrine.
    Read St Bonaventure "The Ascent of the Soul into God" or St John Climacus "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" — the latter is required reading on Orthodox monasteries ever Great Lent.

    No Christian doctrine is neither vague nor meaningless. The above statement is.

    No, that's not how Christian doctrine defines it at all — it's far more serious, dangerous and damaging than that. 'Spiritual laziness' is sloth.

    Maybe ... but there are better definitions, that have been around longer.

    This you are not talking about Christianity.

    Then it's not a resurrection is it, it's something else, an erroneous doctrine called "Docetism'. St John's Gospel and the Johannine Epistles were written to refute that, among other errors.

    Nick — Needleman and Weil might agree with you, but every Christian theologian, from Evagrius to Simon Tugwell, will refute you, so it's pointless our pursuing a discussion when you don't even understand the basics of Christianity.

    "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." 1 Corinthians 15:13-14

    Thomas
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, if you don't know the proper name, it's no surprise you're unaware of the huge body of writings on the subject. Minority? Please! Just because you don't know, please do not assume that no-one else knows.

    Really. Try that on Evagrius, and he'd soon point out the error.

    Again — if you wish to follow your own path, please pursue it elsewhere on IO, but not here, we try and avoid opinions here.

    Thomas
     
  11. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    No, it may not be Catholic Doctrine in your eyes but the mistake you make is in defining Christianity by Christendom

    Regardless of how you view acedia, I see it as explained here so in essence create the results of losing meaning. A lot of what modern psychology calls depression is related to this

    Acedia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    No, I am quoting St. Paul. It may not satisfy Christendom but it is re-birth which is the essence of Christianity.

    You just don't understand those like Origen who understood Christianity.
    Christianity appreciates the distinction between life and death one way and Christendom another. The purpose of the Resurrection isn't to perpetuate death but to give life.

    It isn't a matter of proper names but of understanding and experiencing concepts. Evagrius would understand

    Evagrius Ponticus
    Well if he was condemned by so much of Christendom, it just means he was one of the good guys.

    Thomas, you are so absorbed with Catholic doctrine that you've lost Christianity.

    You've verified a previous concern that this board is for your beliefs and those like Simone Weil, Prof Needleman, Evagrius, and all those that understood esoteric Christianity that have helped me form my opinions are unwelcome. Only your brand of Christendom is acceptable. So the one thing we agree upon is that esoteric Christianity and its theology is not welcome here. Now it is official so I leave.
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Wromg. As I keep trying to point out, you won't find Christian esoterism within a cosmological paradigm, the object and reference points of an authentic Christian esoterism are 'outside' or 'above' or 'beyond' cosmological determination. You continually offer sociological arguments as if they had any meaning or relevance.

    I have nothing against anyone holding an opinion. I do argue when they offer ill-informed opinions of what the assume others think, especially when those others, in their own words, clearly believe other than what is being attributed to them.

    Wrong. The errors were condemned by the Council, not the man.

    And regarding that text:
    von Balthasar, by the way, was a champion of Origen in the 20th century, see his work Spirit and Fire ... but he was not blind to Origen's errors.

    The errors in the discovered edition are there for all to see.

    Wrong again, Origen was never condemned either.

    Indeed they did ... and still do ... Maximus the Confessor brought both Origen and Evagrius out of obscurity, he was a greater theologian than either of them. He 'lovingly corrected' their errors. I have Evagrius on my website.

    Wrong again, for why then, pray, are his writings included in the Philokalia?

    Nearly right. he is not condemned, but he is not nor ever was beatified.

    That seems to be your only yardstick ... but it's not a very mature argument.

    Your argument might carry some order of validity if it was riddled with errors, assumptions, meaningless generalisations and inconsistencies.

    Thomas
     

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