Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spiritual Life Dictionary


Photo: R. Massaro St. Patrick Church Kent, Ohio
Judas fell prey to Logismoi

A Greek term used in Eastern spirituality to describe
temptation in thought.

Logismoi (pronounced log-is-me) is described in the writings of the desert fathers as real demons that tempt us to sin by way of our thoughts.

I have been fascinated by this word and the spirituality behind it for a number of years after hearing a Byzantine priest expound on this subject. It was a spiritual revelation for me at the time. Not so much by the fact that we are tempted in thought in a very deep and real way, but I was deeply moved by the way in which he explained how demons are involved in this intellectual battle for our soul.

It is a daily battle, indeed, is it not?  So many temptations bombarding us from without and within on a moment-by-moment basis.  If one does not constantly stand guard at the door of one's heart, well, the battle is over very quickly and we are the ones who are defeated.

The desert fathers who wrote and taught about the intellectual demons were a kind of spiritual psychotherapist to the monks under their direction. The monks were required to report to their spiritual father throughout the day and reveal their most intimate thoughts and the temptations that passed through their minds. The wisdom of the spiritual father directed the monk in his effort to purify his thoughts and to become less of a target of the spiritual demons that afflict man in his interior battle for purity of heart.

Let's stop for a moment in this little study of mental temptations to ask ourselves a few questions:

Did I check my thoughts today?

Did I renounce thoughts of criticism, complaining, jealousy, envy? 

Did I speak uncharitably about another?

Did I give in to the demons of criticism, gossip, anger, and complaint?

According to the early fathers, there is plenty going on within us before we make the final ascent of giving in to temptation. Here are the eight patterns of evil thought according to Evagrius Ponticus (346-399):

and pride.

The five stages of logismoi according to Fr. Maximos of Mt. Athos:

1.  Assault - the logismoi first attacks a person's mind
2.  Interaction - a person opens up a dialogue with the logismoi
3.  Consent - a person consents to do what the logismoi urges him 
     to do
4.  Defeat - a person becomes hostage to the logismoi and finds it 
     more difficult to resist
5.  Passion or Obsession - the logismoi becomes an entrenched 
     reality within the nous (mind) of a person

Spiritual illnesses such as scrupulosity can be the result of logismoi. That is why it takes a good spiritual director to help one overcome these serious spiritual problems that afflict some souls for years. The spiritual director becomes a sort of exorcist if you will-he helps the soul to be delivered from these demons who hold the soul hostage. Logismoi can also be a root cause of a person's addiction, a spiritual malady that manifests as a physical addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.

What can we do to overcome temptations in our thoughts? The answer: prayer!  Logismoi comes to us when we are at prayer to break our spirit. It is Satan's way of getting us to stop praying.  According to St. Teresa of Jesus and also the early church fathers, we are to ignore these temptations. Another problem spiritual people have is that they believe they can stop all thoughts from entering the mind.  This is nonsense according to St. Teresa. She tells us clearly that as long as we live in the body we will have this battle. But, do not lose heart! If we are faithful to prayer and meditation, we will be given the gift of perfect prayer: contemplation. This is a gift in which imperturbable peace is given to the soul. This gift of peace, that no man can give, is our spiritual armor that protects us from falling into sin through logismoi. But we must be careful as well, to always be on guard, for even great saints have been tempted and tried until their death.

Let us pray for each other, that we be on guard on what goes in and out of our heart and mind. And let us guard ourselves against becoming living logismoi-feeding others with evil suggestions and comments. Let us foster an interior silence and peace and be found in that blessed state of  'prayer without ceasing' and that purity of heart of which St. Paul speaks. Let us be living witnesses of the Kingdom, where we do not fail in charity, in thought, word, or deed.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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