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Author Topic: Evagrius Ponticus and prayer  (Read 6378 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 30, 2007, 01:33:17 AM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,10959.msg149104/topicseen.html#msg149104

This thread is spun off from the above thread about theologians and prayer.

The question I have is how did St. Evagrius view icons?  Did he ever mention them specifically?  If he did not, how would he have viewed them in light of these sayings, or "chapters," in his Chapters on Prayer:

66.  "When you are praying do not fancy the Divinity like some image formed within yourself.  Avoid also allowing your spirit to be impressed with the seal of some particular shape, but rather, free from all matter, draw near the immaterial Being and you will attain to understanding."

110.  "Keep your eyes lowered while you are praying.  Deny your flesh and your desires and live according to the spirit."

114.  "Do not by any means strive to fashion some image or visualize some form at the time of prayer."

115.  "Do not cherish the desire to see sensibly angels or powers or even Christ lest you be led completely out of your wits, and taking a wolf for your shepherd, come to adore the demons who are your enemies."

116.  "Vainglory is the source of the illusions of your mind.  When it exerts its influence on the mind it attempts to enclose the Divinity in form and figure."

117.  "Let me repeat this saying of mine that I once expressed on some other occasions:  Happy is the spirit that attains to perfect formlessness at the time of prayer."

118.  "Happy is the spirit which, praying without distraction, goes on increasing its desire for God."

119.  "Happy is the spirit that becomes free of all matter and is stripped of all at the time of prayer."

120.  "Happy is the spirit that attains to complete unconsciousness of all sensible experience at the time of prayer."

I get the feeling that what he is really addressing is the danger of imagining God or His saints in our minds during prayer.  Anyone who doesn't understand the danger of that only has to see what happened to Vassula Ryden.  She obviously would have benefited from St. Evagrius' advice.

However, his words seem so strong, I wonder what he would have felt about icons.  He seems to advocate that our minds be completely without any image before them at all.  How is that possible when one is using icons?  Don't the icons in a sense put an image into our minds?
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2007, 10:00:10 AM »

To me. It sounds like he is referring to the imagination. Our imagination can create a fantasy and lead us astray. Usually God talks to our conscience. A fantasy created by our minds allows the devil to come between us and God. This demonic influence can persuade a saint to do evil. There have even bin times when people have killed them selves listening to a false angle of light. I can't give any references right now but I believe that many desert fathers have bin influenced by these demons.
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2007, 04:05:41 PM »

I think Demetrios G. is on to something. 

If you look at many of the other excerpts you will see that he goes on to discribe the different demons, such as despondency, the noon-day demon, etc.  He also tells us how these enter into our lives, both through our actions and our thoughts. 

So, I think that enters into the discussion of just how much is he against images (i.e. Icons).  I wonder if he wrote anything on the cult of the saints which existed in his time...?  I don't remember anything offhand, but he might have had some comments on it. 

I think each of the points you listed should be looked at individually, since he's so spuratic about his musings.  Its not as if he put one argument after the other.  He just spewed whatever was on his mind.  (It seems to me)
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2007, 04:16:51 PM »


66.  "When you are praying do not fancy the Divinity like some image formed within yourself.  Avoid also allowing your spirit to be impressed with the seal of some particular shape, but rather, free from all matter, draw near the immaterial Being and you will attain to understanding."


I wonder if he is the first to allude to apophatic theology.  The ultimate "no" of God = to not even think about Him when praying.  Just to draw near to Him through prayer without putting images of Him in your mind. 

I think this is a classic argument against pagan images of his time.  He desperately wants to focus on the transcendance of God (imo). 

Quote
110.  "Keep your eyes lowered while you are praying.  Deny your flesh and your desires and live according to the spirit."

This doesn't really have much to do with images.  Although keep your eyes down could mean that he doesn't want us to look at things while praying, so as to have a clear "picture" of nothingness while praying...?

Quote
114.  "Do not by any means strive to fashion some image or visualize some form at the time of prayer."

Yah...this is a pretty clear example of him being anti-image.  I think this would speak most to an anti-icon argument.  # 115 (the next line) says that we should not desire to even put an image of Christ lest we be led completely out of our wits.

Icons do put an image into our minds.  So, in the way that we understand Icons (post 7th Ecumenical Council) Evagrius would probobly condemn them, or just join the Iconoclastic period.  But he did not have the luxury of being in on the Christological conversations after his time.  So for him, he was worried about extreme asceticism, at all costs.  With that kind of mindset many things would be "inapropriate"....
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2007, 07:45:04 PM »

Well, even the issue of not visualizing Christ in your mind, let alone having an icon (after all, Christ was incarnate, and now we have a general idea of what he looked like, so it's sorta inevitable to pray to someone and not know what they look like).  I don't think any iconoclast is against visualizing Christ in your personal mind.  They were against the use of the carving and wood.  To Evagrius, it seems that he is using a technique where he takes the extreme end of an argument to make a point, that you pray for your health, not to seek seeing God or imagine yourself in wonders.

My priest once taught us in a sermon that he read from the Paradise of the Desert Fathers that one abbot taught the monks that if you ever see a fellow monk flying as though an angel while praying, take his leg and not only pull him down, but throw him violently.  It was to teach us not to be in "lala" land while praying, not to live in emotion and hysteria, but to seriously consider the condition of your life as in need of prayer in healing, and not in need of merely feeling good.

Many other stories that use extremity to make a point does not mean it advocates the use of following the story literally (like cutting the eye and so forth).  Another story from the Paradise of the Desert Fathers describes a monk who did not practice a monastic lifestyle, never fasted, didn't prayed much, and seldom went to church.  When he died, all the other monks felt sorry for him that he might receive a dreadful punishment, but divine inspiration came back that he received Paradise.  How did that happen, the monks asked.  Christ replied, "Because he judged no one, therefore, I won't judge him."  Now mind you, this story seems to advocate apathy-so-long-as-"you-don't-judge-me" type of attitude, but that is not the point of the Holy Fathers when writing this (or at least you hope that's not the point).  The point is that they make up an extreme story to make a point (notice in another thread, the story of killing the fly how the monk-priest reprimanded her for killing a fly).

God bless.

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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2007, 09:41:11 AM »

The interesting thing is that he lived in the period of the first two Ecumenical Councils. 

So this begs the question, just how much had been "hashed out" by those councils concerning the nature of Christ?

There definately seem to be some Origenist thoughts in some of these sayings on prayer. 

However, I think Mina has a good point.  He could just be saying it and not mean it necessarily in the way that we think he does.  Nonetheless, his language is very very strong, so i'm not sure how well that argument holds up. 
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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2007, 01:48:12 AM »

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts.  I hate to complicate matters, but I now remember another question I have about St. Evagrius.  This may even shed light about the icon question.

The edition of The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer I am using has an introduction by a guy named Bamberger.  Bamberger mentions in his introduction a conflict between St. Evagrius and the other monks in the Egyptian desert. 

He states about the monks: "One of their chief objections to the system taught by Evagrius was the immateriality of God, the doctrine that held he was pure spirit.  This was indeed a key-stone in the Evagrian system.  Literally all depended upon it.  In opposition to this view the Copts for the most part held an anthropomorphic concept of the divinity.  They considered that he was in his very form a pattern for the structure of the human body, except in larger proportions.  After all, they reasoned, the Bible tells us that man is made in the image and likeness of God"

Bamberger doesn't go into any more detail about the nature of this dispute, except to tell how this eventually blew up into the Originism controversy which resulted in the exile of St. John Chrysostom.

What is Bamberger talking about?  When he says St. Evagrius taught that God is "pure spirit," does he mean that St. Evagrius denied the incarnation, or merely that St. Evagrius was teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are pure spirit?

When he says that the Coptic monks had an "anthropomorphic" concept of the divinity, is he saying that our beloved Desert Fathers believed that God the Father and/or the Holy Spirit had a body?

This is just plain weird.  I've looked at other sources trying to find an explanation and the closest I've come to is a footnote in Benedicta Ward's The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.  In this book, there is a saying by Sopatrus:  "...Do not get involved in discussions about the image..."  In her footnote, Ward states:  "This refers to the doctrine of the image of God in man, the interpretation of which was a burning issue in the desert."  Is this related to what Bamberger was talking about?

Does anyone know anything about this controversy?  I'm really curious.  I am hoping there is someone who can explain it.  Thanks
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2007, 12:13:24 PM »

George Florovsky has some essays on the subject of the "anthropomorphites:"
http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/aspects_church_history_florovsky.htm#_Toc101740048

I also found another author's paper that relates to this subject, called "The Form of God and Vision of the Glory: Some Thoughts on the Anthropomorphite Controversy of 399 AD."  While I haven't read this yet, it looks interesting:
http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/morphe.html

(I'm not really qualified to try to summarize the content of these articles, being just a seeker without too much theological background, but I found this subject intriguing and thought these may be of interest to Salpy and others.)
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2007, 03:38:42 PM »

I also was not really aware of this. 

But Evagrius was one of those guys who went on a limb about everything.  Taking things into extreme, etc.  So it wouldn't surprise me if he said things that are crazy. 

Amidst the other 1 billion things I have to research, I may (or may not) get a chance to look into it.  If I remember i'll ask our Patristics professor...and try to remember as much as I can. 

Until then, i'm pretty sure that he was in dialogue with Appolinarius (of Laodicea) who said that the Word of God was the mind of Christ = made all the decisions for Him. 

This sounds very much like the idea that God is Spirit (Evagrius) so there may have been an inter-dialogue between them. 
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2007, 07:06:30 PM »

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts.  I hate to complicate matters, but I now remember another question I have about St. Evagrius.  This may even shed light about the icon question.

The edition of The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer I am using has an introduction by a guy named Bamberger.  Bamberger mentions in his introduction a conflict between St. Evagrius and the other monks in the Egyptian desert. 

He states about the monks: "One of their chief objections to the system taught by Evagrius was the immateriality of God, the doctrine that held he was pure spirit.  This was indeed a key-stone in the Evagrian system.  Literally all depended upon it.  In opposition to this view the Copts for the most part held an anthropomorphic concept of the divinity.  They considered that he was in his very form a pattern for the structure of the human body, except in larger proportions.  After all, they reasoned, the Bible tells us that man is made in the image and likeness of God"

Bamberger doesn't go into any more detail about the nature of this dispute, except to tell how this eventually blew up into the Originism controversy which resulted in the exile of St. John Chrysostom.

What is Bamberger talking about?  When he says St. Evagrius taught that God is "pure spirit," does he mean that St. Evagrius denied the incarnation, or merely that St. Evagrius was teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are pure spirit?

When he says that the Coptic monks had an "anthropomorphic" concept of the divinity, is he saying that our beloved Desert Fathers believed that God the Father and/or the Holy Spirit had a body?

This is just plain weird.  I've looked at other sources trying to find an explanation and the closest I've come to is a footnote in Benedicta Ward's The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.  In this book, there is a saying by Sopatrus:  "...Do not get involved in discussions about the image..."  In her footnote, Ward states:  "This refers to the doctrine of the image of God in man, the interpretation of which was a burning issue in the desert."  Is this related to what Bamberger was talking about?

Does anyone know anything about this controversy?  I'm really curious.  I am hoping there is someone who can explain it.  Thanks

There was a fierce controversy that waged between the monks of Scetis and the monks of Nitria. The monks of Scetis were simple in their mindset and possessed an anthropomorphic view of God meaning that when scripture spoke of God as having a face, hand, etc then they believed that He literally really did have all of these physical features. Whereas the monks of Nitria, of whom Evagrius would have been a member, were more Origenistic in nature and propounded the incorporeality of the divine nature or God as pure spirit as opposed to the anthropomorphic view which considered God to be in human form. Theophilus the archbishop of Alexandria in this first instance sided with the Origenists and also declared the incorproeality of God which, as recorded in the Conferences of John Cassian causes much grief for an old and deeply pious monk who cries out and says, "They have taken my God away from me and now I no longer know whom I may take hold of, or whom I may call upon anymore or whom adore". Later with the controversy of the tall brothers, however, Theophilus turn against the Origenists and also excommunicates St John Chrysostom for his offering hospitality and refuge for the tall brothers. St Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, however after much convincing later renigs on this excommunication by his uncle and decided to add the the name of St John Chrysostom to the diptych of the saints...

Well there you have it almost sounds like an episode from the bold and the beautiful...
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2007, 03:13:49 AM »

I've read the first article suggested by Shankar and part of the second (It's really long.)  If I understand correctly, it seems some of the desert monks believed that the actual divine nature was material in form and/or God the Father had a body.  This sounds not only bizarre, but really heretical.  I've heard before about how in the early centuries people were struggling to understand how to describe God.  I guess this is the sort of thing they were talking about.

If St. Evagrius, and other monks who were supposedly influenced by Origin, were attempting to counter this "anthropomorphism," then it kind of makes sense to discourage any kind of image during prayer.  That may explain the seemingly extreme nature of some of the chapters I quoted above.

I wonder if the reaction against this anthropomorphism is in any way responsible for the historical ban on icons depicting God the Father in human form.  That would be kind of interesting to look into.
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2007, 11:36:10 AM »


If St. Evagrius,


I'm not sure if you know or if you just wrote it out of habit but Evagrius is not a saint.

I'm pretty sure he was declared a heretic, or at least anathematized.  (not 100% sure on this)

I'm not sure how much these particular dialogues had an affect on later discussions regarding Icons etc. only because there is 400 years of history in between (and politics).  Also I think by the time the Iconoclastic period came around people had refuted Evagrius so many times that his arguments didn't really hold up for anyone.  (just taking a guess on this). 

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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2007, 01:08:47 PM »

I'm not sure if you know or if you just wrote it out of habit but Evagrius is not a saint.

I'm pretty sure he was declared a heretic, or at least anathematized.  (not 100% sure on this)


Forgive me, I should have started off this thread by explaining that in my Church Evagrius is still a saint.  I think he is also a saint in the Georgian and Coptic Churches.  For most EO's (except the Georgians) he was condemned as a heretic at Constantinople II, because he was supposedly into Originism.  It's my understanding, however, that most of his writings, like the Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, are really O.K.  His condemnation was mostly based on a book he wrote called the Kephalaia Gnostica.  I once pulled up a copy of it on the internet and tried to read it, but I couldn't understand it at all.  I obviously lack the background to make sense out of it. 

His other writings, however, evidently played a major role in shaping Orthodox spirituality, both OO and EO.  I read that after his condemnation, EO monasteries began to ascribe many of his writings to St. Nilus and others, so they wouldn't have to be destroyed.  In the Armenian Church that sort of thing was not necessary since we did not participate in Constantinople II.  In fact many of the most ancient manuscripts of his writings are found in Classical Armenian.  One of the few of his writings that is not preserved in Classical Armenian is the Kephalaia Gnostica.  I guess the Armenian Church Fathers realized that there were some objectionable things in it and so didn't preserve it.  It is only found in a couple of ancient Syriac manuscripts.   
 
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2007, 05:26:01 PM »

I'm also sorry.  I didn't realize that you wern't EO! 

Yah most of his writings are OK in the EO, or "good for reading" but not necessarily considered authoritative.  In fact many say that we should not call him a "father of the church" since he was declared an Origenist later on. 

I really like what he has to say.  Except for the Kephalaia Gnostica I think most everything is OK.  I also think that his ascetic practices have long been regarded as a foundational piece to "modern" monasticism.  So, these things tend to live on anyway...
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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2007, 06:52:00 PM »

Now I'm about to ask a stupid question.  I call it that because I am about to reveal my ignorance.  When I read the Praktikos, I could find nothing that told me what the word "praktikos" means.  It was never even explained in the introduction, or if it was I didn't see it.  So there I was, reading a book whose title I didn't understand.  That really irritated me.  Can any of our Greek speaking members tell me what it means?
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2007, 08:34:36 AM »

I didn't get a chance to look it up so this isn't 100% correct, but a "praktikos" is someone who practices, or in this case, a book of practices/works.  So the english word here is directly from Greek. 

I'm gona double check that today though.  Someone else might have a more enlightening answer...
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« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2007, 10:13:04 PM »

Quote
The question I have is how did St. Evagrius view icons?  Did he ever mention them specifically? 

No he didn't. Icons were not as central to the practice of Christian Orthodoxy as they are today (post-Iconoclasm). Though there are elements of hsi thought that allow one to say that he could have viewed them favorably. The idea that he didn't is a contention of prof. Elizabeth Clarke in her work on the "Origenist Controversy". In this book she puts it to us as an axiom that Evagrios was an iconoclast, but there is no evidence for this axiom in Evagrian textual tradition (as was pointed out by Augustine Cassiday in Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 2004 vol. 2-3).

Let us consider two Evagrian texts where Evagrios tells us about hsi views on "seeing" and/or "vision":

"150. Just as sight/vision is the most worthy of the senses, so also is prayer the most divine/highest of the virtues."

And in his "Kephalaia Gnostika" he says:

" IV, 90. The knowledge of God does not require a soul skilled in dialectic, but one that sees (has vision). For while impure souls may become dialecticians seeing (having vision) is reserved to the pure."

Seeing is a very important and much valued act in Evagrian thought. The approval of iconography sits very well with this appreciative view on "sight" or "vision". The absence of mental images during prayer is only misconstructed as iconoclasm by those who approach Evagrios wrongly and thus ask the wrong questions from his texts.

Quote
If he did not, how would he have viewed them in light of these sayings, or "chapters," in his Chapters on Prayer

Given Evagrios emphasis in his writings on adherence to the teaching of the Lord's Church (To the Virgin, 54), he would have accepted the ruling of the Church on the matter. I do believe that both our families of Orthodox believe the same thing when it comes to Icons,..

Gregory




 
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« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2007, 11:24:01 PM »

A basic perusal of the philokalia and one will find that the theme of imageless prayer is actually not unique to Evagrius, although he does seem to be a prominent figure in its establishment. However, you will find that the theme of imageless prayer actually runs right through the entire text of the philokalia both prior to and after the iconoclastic controversy.

I think the theology of imageless prayer is not opposed to imaginative prayer and is established due to the anthropomorphic controversy that was aroused during the time of Evagrius and that suggested that God and spiritual beings literally possessed human form. Therefore, imageless prayer counters this by suggesting that one pray without material objects in their mind to the God who Himself is immaterial. On a deeper level it is used to project the believer to a deeper level of prayer which more greatly reflects its apophatic theology and prayer. Furthermore, it was shunned by the monastics who were often plagued by images whether good or bad which Satan would use for their temptation. Therefore, the monastics seem to have become extremely cautious of images.

It seems that images, in much the same way as music and other miscellaneous elaborate practises and aesthetics in the church are used to initiate the neophyte in the mystical praxis of the church. However, one is to make use of all the such warily and they are to be abandoned once they have served their usefulness. And it is such that pure prayer has no need of such things but ultimately is taken up by God in ecstasy where neither speech nor images are adequate to convey those things which God has prepared for those who love Him...
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« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2007, 11:39:41 PM »

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The edition of The Praktikos & Chapters on Prayer I am using has an introduction by a guy named Bamberger.  Bamberger mentions in his introduction a conflict between St. Evagrius and the other monks in the Egyptian desert.

Fr. Bamberger's opinions are dated and sometimes incorrect.

Quote
Bamberger doesn't go into any more detail about the nature of this dispute, except to tell how this eventually blew up into the Originism controversy which resulted in the exile of St. John Chrysostom.

That is a very complex story, and very difficult to reconstruct. Though what Origenism means in this context is not primarily doctrinally motivated but rather by ecclesial politics. Theophilos of Alexandria got caught absuing gifts of money to the Church by one of the Tall Brothers (at the time close friends of his). The Tall Brothers object to the Bishop's behavior. Theophilos feels grieved and attempts to get the Tall Brother who caught him condemned on false charges, this fails and message get's out of the Bishop's severe misbehavior. The Tall Brother flees to the desert to his brothers (all of them excepionally tall hence their name). The Tall Brothers are part of the monastic circle deriving from Origen, St. Anthony the Great, the Macarii, etc. and they speak out against their Bishop. Theophilos in return charges the Tall Brothers with Origenism and organizes a band of monks to clean out the Tall Brothers who have now been condemned for heresy.

The Tall Brothers flee to John Chrysostom and ask for his intervention. John is known to have exceeded the canonical bounds of his see in interventions and perhaps they hoped for his intervention with regard to Theophilos. Things did not turn out that way. John tried to proceed carefully, and did not receive them into communion. He did, however, attempt to mediate between the Tall Brothers and their Bishop. Theophilos in his turn had managed to get Epiphanius (at the time a widely known and respected heresy-hunter) to turn against John and even go to Constantinopel to confront the Archbishop. Shortly after his arrival Epiphanius receives one of the Tall Brothers and talks with him. Epiphanius immediately returns home, realizing he has been "used" by Theophilos concluding that the Tall Brothers were no heretics. Epiphanius dies on his way home.

Theophilos orchastrates a synod, has John condemned, and exiled. John dies in one of his exiles. The first Origenist Controversy is a fact of history, and doctrine was hardly concerned. Evagrios played next to no role in all of this. He died in 399 before the machinations of Theophilos took effect.

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What is Bamberger talking about?  When he says St. Evagrius taught that God is "pure spirit," does he mean that St. Evagrius denied the incarnation, or merely that St. Evagrius was teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are pure spirit?

The Incarnation is basic to Evagrios' theology. Nothing in his thought makes sense if either the Cross or the Incarnation are left out.

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When he says that the Coptic monks had an "anthropomorphic" concept of the divinity, is he saying that our beloved Desert Fathers believed that God the Father and/or the Holy Spirit had a body?

Perhaps there were a bunch of monks who believed that, but it is more likely a polemical exaggeration.

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This is just plain weird.  I've looked at other sources trying to find an explanation and the closest I've come to is a footnote in Benedicta Ward's The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.  In this book, there is a saying by Sopatrus:  "...Do not get involved in discussions about the image..."  In her footnote, Ward states:  "This refers to the doctrine of the image of God in man, the interpretation of which was a burning issue in the desert."  Is this related to what Bamberger was talking about?

Does anyone know anything about this controversy?  I'm really curious.  I am hoping there is someone who can explain it.  Thanks

You could try and look at Daniel Hombergen's The Second Origenist Controversy, published 2001. I am working on an extended research paper on Evagrios and can send it to you once it is done. If you read German and/or French pls read whatever you can find by Fr. Gabriel Bunge and for English sources see Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, and Fr. Columba Stewart. These are very reliable sources on Evagrios studies.

Gregory
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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2007, 04:16:50 PM »

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There definately seem to be some Origenist thoughts in some of these sayings on prayer.

More than likely. Evagrios was taught and ordained reader by St. Basil the Great (an Origenist) and taught further and ordained Deacon by St. Gregory the Theologian (an Origenist). In the desert he was taught by disciples of St. Anthony the Great (an Origenist) and by (St.) Didymos the Blind (an Origenist), and again by the two Macarii (both Origenist disciples of St. Anthony the Great). The Origenism shared by all the above teachers/fathers is a polemical device to read Scripture and teach it in such a way as to defend the Nicene Faith and to discern pseudo-knowledge (either Gnosticism, Arianism, Eunomianism, or Apollinarianism). Evagrios associates himself consciously with those who are gathered around St. Athanasius, his catechist Didymos, his friend Serapion of Thmuis (a See once offered to Evagrios by Theophilos of Alexandria), and especially St. Gregory the Theologian.

The heretical Origenism attributed to Evagrios (as well as Origen) is a polemical exaggeration or if the doctrines (mistakenly assumed to have been) condemned at the 2nd Synod of Constantinopel in 553 were actually held by anyone they were not faithful heirs of either Origen or Evagrios! The typical Origenist protology and eschatology condemned in textbooks of theology both ancient and modern is absent in the works of both Origen and Evagrios. In fact the one passage from On First Principles[/b] where Origen seems to clearly speak of pre-existence of souls is a hypothetical reconstruction created by the German philologist Paul Koetschau (fragment 15) which he inserted into the text of Rufinus' translation. It is not at all a text written by Origen, but rather a text created by someone who already knew Origen held to this doctrine and therefore found it missing in Rufinus' translation and thus felt confident to add the missing doctrine. To be sure their conceptualizations and use of language may be inadequate for our standards today, but in their own time they were at the height of Orthodoxy and in fact pillars of Orthodoxy.

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Until then, i'm pretty sure that he was in dialogue with Appolinarius (of Laodicea) who said that the Word of God was the mind of Christ = made all the decisions for Him.

This sounds very much like the idea that God is Spirit (Evagrius) so there may have been an inter-dialogue between them.

In the extant letters of Evagrios (translated into German) there are no letters addressed to Apollinarius. In the (Coptic) Life of Evagrios we do have a story where Eavgrios refutes a demon posing as an Apollinarian clergyman. We do have some letters by Basil the Great addressed to Apollinarius asking him about the term homoousion to which Basil found it very difficult to agree himself. It is Apollinarius who puts Basil on the right track concerning homoousion and gives him that distinction between ousia and hypostasis that would make Basil famous. Evagrios, at the time, may have been under Basil's guidance (since Evagrios father was a Chorepiscopos under Basil at the time). It is very unlikely (but not impossible) Evagrios had any correspondence with Apollinarius at this time or at any other time.

The christology of Evagrios is wrapped around the concept of a holy and pure mind united with the Word. The union between this soul and the Word occurs at the Incarnation and the Word reveals God in His Own humanity and accomplishes our salvation on/through the Cross. The important thing here is that there is no point of contact between Apollinarius' teaching of the absence of a "mind" in Christ and the Evagrian affirmation that the Incarnate Lord is fully man (including a mind) and fully God.

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I'm not sure if you know or if you just wrote it out of habit but Evagrius is not a saint.

I'm pretty sure he was declared a heretic, or at least anathematized.  (not 100% sure on this)

The council in Trullo and the 7th Ec Council have mentioned Evagrios name in their anathemas. They confirm a condemnation that by that time had been assumed an accomplishment of 2nd Constantinopel. The assumption, as we now know, was wrong. Evagrios nor Origen were condemned by name at that council. However the heresies aimed at by the anathemas is certainly worthy of condemnation and cannot possibly be 'restored'. The names of Origen and Evagrios can be. In the Georgian (EO) Church Evagrios is a saint, and he is so for all of the OO communion as far as I know. The Badarak (Armenian Liturgy) commemorates St. Evagrios every time it is celebrated. The RCC has restored Evagrios to it's calebdar as well and celebrates him februari 11th. The only EO's who might be found to celebrate him are the Georgians.

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Forgive me, I should have started off this thread by explaining that in my Church Evagrius is still a saint.  I think he is also a saint in the Georgian and Coptic Churches.  For most EO's (except the Georgians) he was condemned as a heretic at Constantinople II, because he was supposedly into Originism. 

The nature of sixth century Origenism is very unclear and it's major proponents (Leontius of Byzantium and Theodore Ascidas) do not show any of the doctrines that Cyril of Scythopolis (Lives of Kyriakos and Sabbas) accuses them off. Daniel Hombergen in his research into this topic has (accrding to reviews of this work that I have yet to read) concluded that the real issue seems to have been the form of monasticism. Either more charismatic or more institutionalized and Cyril used Origenism as a polemical term to slander his opponents. The use of the term Origenism in this way was by then a well-established custom. Origenism could be stretched into meaning whatever one needed to slander one's opponent. This way of dealing with one;s opponent may seem wholly scandalous to us, but was a well-established rhetorical technique in ancient times. Much like the add-campaings of US politicians today.

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It's my understanding, however, that most of his writings, like the Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, are really O.K.  His condemnation was mostly based on a book he wrote called the Kephalaia Gnostica.  I once pulled up a copy of it on the internet and tried to read it, but I couldn't understand it at all.  I obviously lack the background to make sense out of it.

Evagrios is an aquired taste, and his writings are deliberately obscure. Evagrios wants you to begin with the first steps of the spiritual way and only when you accept this guidance of his will you be able to move on to the more difficult works he wrote. Reading and meditating with Evagrios requires an intimate knowledge of Scripture and the hermeneutical techniques of the desert and of the early Fathers. I would advise you to start with Fr. John Behr's The Way to Nicea and the 2 volumes of The Nicene Faith to acquire some of the necessary tools to meditate and pray with Evagrios. Next to Fr. John's works read Fr. Gabriel Bunge's Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition and from there move on to The Word in the Desert by Burton Christie, and then move on to Fr. Jeremy Driscoll's translation of Ad Monachos and his Steps to Spiritual Perfection: Studies on Spiritual Progress in Evagrius Ponticus after which Augustine Cassiday's Evagrius Ponticus will be accessible to you. Cassiday provides key texts in English translation by Evagrios and is an absolute must for any Evagrios student. From there on you're pretty much set to understand any text by Evagrios put to you. But remember it will take time,.. Lot's of time.

Gregory
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« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2007, 08:08:59 PM »

I didn't get a chance to look it up so this isn't 100% correct, but a "praktikos" is someone who practices, or in this case, a book of practices/works.  So the english word here is directly from Greek. 

I'm gona double check that today though.  Someone else might have a more enlightening answer...

Prakickos in the modern greek means someone who practices. So your correct. This book is about asctical practice. The practice of denying ones self.
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« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2007, 10:04:48 PM »

Thanks, guys.  I'm learning a lot here!
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« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2007, 10:18:17 PM »

Welcome back to the forum, Gregory!  Your expertise on St. Evagrius and the other issues surrounding him is really appreciated! 

By the way, I really miss your old OO forum.   Sad 
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« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2007, 12:02:39 PM »

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Welcome back to the forum, Gregory!  Your expertise on St. Evagrius and the other issues surrounding him is really appreciated!

Thanks!

Well,.. you see,..if one is Orthodox and deeply venerates Origen and Evagrios one is forced to study much because one's Orthodoxy will be continuously questioned (if not in fact denied). Wink

Gregory
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« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2007, 12:09:35 PM »

Grigorii

Hey, this is Shawn.  Why did you close down the Yahoo group?  Man, I haven't talked to you in a number of months.  Are you still as SVS?  Perhaps we should talk this over in PMs, how does that sound?

Shawn
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« Reply #25 on: February 11, 2007, 10:45:59 AM »

By way of self introduction, I'd like to say happy Evagrios Feast day to all. Evagrios is a very dear soul to my heart.

(I wonder how much one should "feast" ... perhaps a little oil and salt on your bread?)

Skotos Khrodos
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