The Spiritual Struggle with Logismoi (Thoughts)

Martyr Bacchus in Syria

Martyr Bacchus in Syria

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS

(Source: Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Holy Fathers of the Church)

It is in the intelligent part of the soul that evil thoughts operate which excite desire and attempt to capture man's nous so that sin is committed. The development of sin starts with thoughts. Therefore anyone who wishes to purify his inner world, to be released from sin, to be freed from the captivity of his nous must keep his intelligence safe from the impact of evil thoughts.

What logismoi (thoughts) are

When the Holy Fathers speak of 'thoughts' (logismoi), they do not mean simple thoughts, but the images and representations behind which there are always appropriate thoughts. The images with the thoughts are called 'logismoi'. 'Images' in some cases appear to take on visible form, while others are mostly products of the mind, but more often it is a combination of the two. As visible images also generate some thought or other, ascetics label all images 'intrusive thoughts.' The various satanic thoughts sometimes they mobilize fantasy and disjointed memory, and they attack the person with the ulterior aim of effecting his capture.

According to Hesychios the Priest, most people are unaware that these thoughts are nothing but "images of material and worldly things". As it appears from the text, imagination plays a very important role in the formation of the image in us. Thus one can say that logismoi are painters of various images and representations in our intelligence, most of them memories of the past. One brother who was being attacked by memories of the past said: "My thoughts are old and new painters: memories are troubling me, and idols of women".

All things have their inner principles (words, logoi) with which they speak and communicate with man. According to Saint Gregory of Sinai, Holy Scripture also calls these 'words' of things 'thoughts'. The words of things are also called conceptual images, and vice versa. Their action "is not material in itself, but it takes the form of material things, and its form changes". The words of things are used by the demons and therefore they can also be called the words of the demons. Saint Gregory of Sinai characterizes evil thoughts, or rather their onslaught, as a "flowing river", which, through assent to sin, is transformed into a deluge that drowns the heart.

In speaking of 'thoughts' and trying to pinpoint exactly what they are, I think that we must refer to the division made by Saint Maximus the Confessor. He says that some thoughts are simple, others composite. Thoughts which are not linked with passion are simple. Passion-charged thoughts are composite, consisting "of a conceptual image combined with passion". The memory of a thing, when combined with passion makes the thought passion-charged or composite. I think that at this point it is well to outline the distinction between a thing, a conceptual image, and a passion as Saint Maximus analyzes them. Gold, a woman, a man, and so forth, are things. The simple memory of gold, a woman, or a man is a conceptual image. A passion is "mindless affection or indiscriminate hatred for one of these things". An impassioned conceptual image is a thought compounded of passion and a conceptual image. Therefore we must strive to separate the passion from the conceptual image so that the thought remains simple. And this separation can be made through spiritual love and self-control.

Impassionate thoughts either stimulate the soul's desiring power or disturb its incisive power, or darken its intelligence.

The cause of evil thoughts

What we have written about the nature of evil thought also shows their causes. According to Saint Gregory of Sinai, the origin and cause of evil thoughts lies in "the splitting up, through man's transgression, of his single and simple memory". Before his transgression man's memory was simple, that is, it has no passion and it was turned entirely towards God. All the powers of the soul were centered on God. Immediately after the transgression this single memory was split up. Saint Thalassios teaches that evil thoughts arise from three sources: the senses, the memory, and the body's temperament. The worst are those that come from the memory.

I think that Saint Isaac the Syrian gives us a starting-point for seeing more clearly the causes of evil thoughts and what it is that provokes them. He teaches that "the movement of thoughts in a man originates from four causes: firstly, from the natural will of the flesh; secondly, from imagination of sensory objects in the world which a man hears and sees; thirdly, from mental predispositions and from the aberrations of the soul; and fourthly, from the assaults of the demons which wage war with us in all the passions. Therefore as long as a person remains in this world he cannot avoid thoughts and warfare."

The basic cause of evil thoughts is the warfare of the devil. The majority of evil thoughts are from the devil. The devil's aim is to lead a man (person) to sin in either though or in action. He even waged war against Christ Himself, naturally without any success. The demons who are always trying to lay hold of our soul do so "by means of impassioned thoughts" so that they may cause it to sin either in the mind or in action. When a man (person) thinks evil, he sins in thought, whereas when he does the will of the devil and gratifies his desire, he sins in action. The committing of sin is called sinning action. The demons constantly sow thoughts in order to capture the nous. The Saints recognize (spiritual discernment) "the seeds of the demons" and advise people accordingly.



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George