Best when viewed with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

Evagrius Ponticus (345 - 399)

We have learnt, after much observation, to recognize the difference between angelic thoughts, human thoughts, and thoughts that come from demons...Struggling with logismoi
Timeline for Evagrius Ponticus
  • 345 Born into a Christian family in the small town of Ibora on the shores of the Black Sea, in the Roman province of Pontus, north of the present Turkey.
  • 380 He joined Gregory of Nazianzus in Constantinople, where he was promoted to deacon and eventually to archdeacon.
  • 381 He was present at the Second Ecumenical Council convened by Emperor Theodosius I.
  • 383 Became a monk at the monastery of Rufinus and Melania the Elder at Jerusalem. Later joined a cenobitic community of monks in Nitria and eventually moved to Kellia.
  • 399 Died after 17 years in the desert.
" of the Christian Desert Fathers, the monk Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 A.D.), taught a form of hesychasm (Greek: quiet) in which one comes to see the conditioned links between thoughts and emotions, and then, through meditation and prayer, finds a deep calm called apatheia. In apatheia the mind is integrated and purified of its naturally tumultuous activity, allowing one to simply “be” in God’s presence or to pray without distraction. Monks such as Evagrius believed that virtue in one’s speech and behavior would follow freely from a mind that is emptied of distracting thoughts. Some other Christian contemplatives would describe this emptying as a kind of on-going detachment from chaotic thoughts. It’s not that thinking goes away--sometimes our thoughts may bring blessings or healings!--but that we experience an inward spaciousness so that we are not so caught up in our own thoughts and worries. When we have this kind of detachment, we are less likely to mistake our thoughts and opinions for our present reality."...Christian Mindfulness & Emptiness
"At the same time, it is clear that none of these fathers adopted his [Evagrius] Origenistic doctrine of God in which the Son or Logos is subordinated to the Father. Nor did they believe that history circles upon itself, recovering all that exists to begin a new age. The ages recycle age after age. This is simply a restating of Origen's apokatastasis or "the restitution of all things." Finally, all of the Fathers, including the Cappadocians rejected the body-soul dualism, which is prominent in Evagrios' Gnostica Kephalaia. He seems to have acquired this anthropology through the study of Origen and Clement of Alexandria; and perhaps, from his contemporary, Didymus the Blind (313-398), who was also a devotee of Origenism/Platonism. The soul/body dualism espoused by Evagrios in his later writings (ones now being endorsed by many of the monastics on Mt. Athos) amount to sheer Gnosticism. This doctrine and the teaching based upon it have been repeatedly condemned by the holy fathers of the Church and by Ecumenical Councils. Nevertheless, these unsober monastics refuse to accept the judgment of the Orthodox Church, and follow their own self-willed path into the heresies of Evarianism, Origenism, other forms of neo-Platonism and sheer Gnosticism....COMMENTARY ON THE PHILOKALIA: THE CONDEMNATION OF EVAGRIOS Archbishop Lazar Puhalo"
Evagrius Ponticus
Excerpts from
De Vitis Patrum, Book II
By Rufinus of Aquileia

Chapter XXVII


We saw there this most wise man, wonderful in all sorts of ways, called Evagrius. Among the other virtues of his soul he had been given the grace of discernment of spirits (1 Cor.12.10) and the renewal of the mind (Ephesians 4.23) as the Apostle teaches. There was no other among the brothers who had attained to such a great and subtle spiritual knowledge. He had amassed an impressive store of learning through his experience in so many matters, and not least through the grace of God, but much of his learning had come to him through having been a disciple for a long time of the blessed Macarius, a most famous man by the grace of God, outstanding in signs and virtues, as everyone knows.

His abstinence was incredible, and he gave instruction to the brothers about it. If they were really serious about mortifying the body and driving away demonic phantasies he would encourage them to be very sparing in the amount of water they drank. "For," he said, " If you flood the body with a lot of water you generate even more phantasies, and offer a bigger space to the demons." He taught many other things about abstinence very insistently. For himself he used water very sparingly and hardly even ate much bread. The other brothers in that place were quite content with bread and salt. In all that great number of people you could hardly find anyone who even used a little oil. Many of them did not lie down to sleep, but sat and meditated, as I do believe, on the divine Word...De Vitis Patrum, Book II By Rufinus of Aquileia
Most Egyptian monks of that time were illiterate. Evagrius, a highly-educated classical scholar, is believed to be one of the first people to begin recording and systematizing the erstwhile oral teachings of the monastic authorities known as the Desert Fathers. Eventually, he also became regarded as a Desert Father, and several of his apothegms appear in the 'Vitae Patrum' (a collection of sayings from early Christian monks).

Evagrius rigorously tried to avoid teaching beyond the spiritual maturity of his audiences. When addressing novices, he carefully stuck to concrete, practical issues (which he called praktike). For example, in Peri Logismon 16, he includes this disclaimer:

I cannot write about all the villainies of the demons; and I feel ashamed to speak about them at length and in detail, for fear of harming the more simple-minded among my readers.[4]

His more advanced students enjoyed more theoretical, contemplative material (gnostike).
The logismoi
“Orthodox spirituality places great emphasis on the nous, or mind (intellect), and the thoughts, logismoi, that the mind produces. It does so because everything we do begins in the nous with thoughts (logismoi). ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so is he’, we read in Proverbs…..Nous, Logismoi,and the Philokalia
The most prominent feature of his research was a system of categorizing various forms of temptation. (also known as Logismoi or Assaultive Thoughts, are thoughts and thought/images that come to us and are distracting) There are many church fathers who teach us how to identify them and how to deal with them.He 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.
Evagrius taught that tears were the utmost sign of true repentance and that weeping, even for days at a time, opened one up to God.[5]
Like the other Cappadocian fathers Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea, Evagrius was an avid student of Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-250 AD), and he further developed certain esoteric speculations regarding the pre-existence of human souls, the final state of believers, and certain teachings about the natures of God and Christ. These speculative teachings were declared heretical by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. When subsequent ecumenical councils sought to clarify these anathemas, Origen (along with Evagrius and a few others) were condemned as well.
The eight patterns of evil thought are gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow, lust, anger, vainglory, and pride. While he did not create the list from scratch, he did refine 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 combined acedia (discouragement) with tristitia (sorrow), calling the combination the sin of sloth; vainglory with pride; and added envy to the list of "Seven Deadly Sins"....Wikipedia
"Evagrius was a friend of the Cappadocians Fathers and would become the first great theoretician of the spiritual life. He stressed the centrality of wordless, imageless prayer, and his writings display a fondness for brief, oracular sayings. Within a year of his death,his friends and disciples—Palladius, Cassian, Rufinus—would be persecuted as “Origenists” and run out of Egypt. Evagrius was condemned 150 years later, and his works circulated anonymously"....William Harmless
"Two hundred years after his death, Evagrius’ cell at Kellia was still considered to be haunted by an evil demon that had led “Evagrius astray, alienating him from the true faith, and it filled his mind with abominable teachings.” A brother “from foreign parts” came to Kellia and asked to stay in Evagrius’ cell. Possibly mindful of the saying of Saint Macarius of Egypt, “Do not sleep in the cell of a brother who has a bad reputation,”14 the priest tried to dissuade him, but the brother insisted. The first week he stayed there without incident, but the second week he failed to appear on Sunday; when the priest went to check on him he found that “the brother had put a rope around his neck and strangled himself.”15 This story undoubtedly circulated in monastic circles as a cautionary tale warning against “Evagrian” tendencies.16 Other evidence, however, shows that Evagrius’ writings were still being requested by monks in Egypt in the seventh and eighth centuries.17 The Virtues of Macarius, assembled after 450, closely link Evagrius with Macarius the Great, one of the most eminent saints of Egypt.18 In them Evagrius is called “the wise,” hardly an epithet applied to someone anathematized.19 Did this unfortunate “foreign” suicide at Kellia come from Asia Minor or Syria where Evagrius’ works still circulated and where his ascetical teaching was still admired? Was this curse on Evagrius somehow a lingering memory of (some) Egyptian resentment against the earlier foreign (that is, Greek) interloper, a tension hinted at in the Apophthegmata?20 If so, how representative was this resentment?"...source: COPTIC PALLADIANA I:THE LIFE OF PAMBO
Writings of Evagrius Ponticus:

Excerpts from The Philokalia
Other writings (see The Shapphire Light of the Mind: the Skemmata of Evagruis William Harmless and Raymond R. Fitzgerald)
"Over the last 50 years, scholars (mostly French-speaking) have been steadily editing and translating Evagrius's works. The Engish-speaking world, however, has seen little of this. Two of his finest works, the Praktikos and the Chapters on Prayer, have been translated into English, as has his Ad monachos."
Back to Previous Level