How did the monks of the Egyptian desert fight against the demons that attacked them with tempting thoughts? How could Christians resist the thoughts of gluttony, fornication, or pride that assailed them and obstructed their contemplation of God? According to Evagrius of Pontus (345 ‘399), one of the greatest spiritual directors of ancient monasticism, the monk should talk back to demons with relevant passages from the Bible. His book Talking Back (Antirrha?tikos) lists over 500 thoughts or circumstances in which the demon-fighting monk might find himself, along with the biblical passages with which the monk should respond. It became one of the most popular books among the ascetics of Late Antiquity and the Byzantine East, but until now the entire text had not been translated into English. From Talking Back we gain a better understanding of Evagrius’s eight primary demons: gluttony, fornication, love of money, sadness, anger, listlessness, vainglory, and pride. We can explore a central aspect of early monastic spirituality, and we get a glimpse of the temptations and anxieties that the first desert monks faced.
David Brakke is professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences of Indiana University. He studied ancient Christianity at Harvard Divinity School and Yale University. Brakke is the author of Athanasius and Asceticism and Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, and he edits the Journal of Early Christian Studies.
Share your thoughts!
Let us know what you think...
Continue as a Guest
Many people today are uncertain about what they believe and how they should live. They seek for a tradition that demonstrates antiquity and possesses authenticity. This newly translated volume of the writings of the Orthodox spiritual teacher Ignatius Brianchaninov offers a vision of a life that flows from following Christ. The field is both a [...]
This is an exceptional book, one of the most amazing and edifying Lives of modern holy elders ever to be translated into English. Elder Porphyrios, a Greek monk and priest who died in 1991, stands in the long tradition of charismatic spiritual guides in the Eastern Church which continues from the apostolic age down to [...]
This publication presents a new translation of the letter of Abba Antony the Great along with commentary in which Abba Antony the Great teaches the importance of one to know themselves and by knowing oneself one knows God. He says, “Truly, my beloved, “I write to you as to wise men” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:15), [...]
Bringing Jesus to the Desert examines the lives and teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers which are applicable to Christians today. These illustrations of faith in the lands once inhabited by Bible characters still shadow Christianity in the Middle East, and are a forgotten but needed revelation in the West.
The Writings of St. Macarius the Great of Egypt: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter The Fifty Homilies, in the form of a practical, monastic pedagogy, reveal the typical traits of Eastern Christian asceticism, with particular emphasis on the spiritual combat, the action of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of interior prayer. [...]