Evagrius Ponticus

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In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem.

Evagrius Ponticus (345–399 AD) was a Christian monk and ascetic.


as translated and edited by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (1979)
  • Do not desire wealth for giving to the poor.
    • Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life, vol. 1, p. 32
  • Do you desire, then, to embrace this life of solitude, and to seek out the blessings of stillness? If so, abandon the cares of the world, and the principalities and powers that lie behind them: free yourself from attachment to material things, from domination by passions and desires, so that as a stranger to all this you may attain true stillness.
    • Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life, vol. 1, p. 32
  • Just as it is possible to think of water both while thirsty and while not thirsty, so it is possible to think of gold with greed and without greed. The same applies to other things.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 40
  • In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 46
  • The demon of avarice, it seems to me, is extraordinarily complex and is baffling in his deceits. Often, when frustrated by the strictness of our renunciation, he immediately pretends to be a steward and a lover of the poor; he urges us to prepare a welcome for strangers who have not yet arrived or to send provisions for absent brethren. He makes us mentally visit prisons in the city and ransom those on sale as slaves. He suggests that we should attach ourselves to wealthy women, and advises us to be obsequious to others who have a full purse. And so, after deceiving the soul, little by little he engulfs it in avaricious thoughts and then hands it over to the demon of self-esteem.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 51
Bamberger, John Eudes, trans. 1972. Evagrius Ponticus: The Praktikos. Chapters on Prayer. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications.
  • 52. To separate the body from the soul is the privilege of only of the One who has joined them together. But to separate the soul from the body lies as well in the power of the man who pursues virtue. For our Fathers gave to the meditation of death and to the flight from the body a spiritual name: anachoresis [withdrawal].
  • 64. The proof of apatheia is had when the spirit begins to see its own light, when it remains in a state of tranquility in the presence of the images it has during sleep and when it maintains its calm as it beholds the affairs of life.
  • 81. Agape is the progeny of apatheia. Apatheia is the very flower of ascesis. Ascesis consists in keeping the commandments. The custodian of those commandments is the fear of God which is in turn the offspring of true faith. Now faith is an interior an interior good, one which is to be found even in those who do not yet believe in God.
    • (Order: (1) interior good > (2) true faith > (3) fear of God > (4) keeping the commandments > (5) ascesis > (6) apatheia > (7) agape)
  • 97. One of the brethren owned only a book of the Gospels. He sold this and gave the money for the support of the poor. He made a statement that deserves remembrance: "I have sold the very word that speaks to me saying: 'Sell your possessions and give to the poor.'"

Chapters on Prayer

Bamberger, John Eudes, trans. 1972. Evagrius Ponticus: The Praktikos. Chapters on Prayer. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications.
  • 3. Prayer is a continual intercourse of the spirit with God. What state of soul then is required that the spirit might thus strain after its Master without wavering, living constantly with him without intermediary?
  • 5. Pray first for the gift of tears so that by means of sorrow you may soften your native rudeness. Then having confessed your sins to the Lord you will obtain pardon for them.
  • 6. Pray with tears and your request will find a hearing. Nothing so gratifies the Lord as supplication offered in the midst of tears.
  • 35. Prayer is an ascent of the spirit to God.
  • 36. Do you long to pray? Renounce all things. You then will become heir to all.
  • 37. First of all pray to be purified from your passions. Secondly, pray to be delivered from ignorance. Thirdly, pray to be freed from all temptation and abandonment.
  • 52. The state of prayer can be aptly described as a habitual state of imperturbable calm. It snatches to the heights of intelligible reality the spirit which loves wisdom and which is truly spiritualized by the most intense love.
  • 60. If you are a theologian, you truly pray. If you truly pray, you are a theologian.
  • 65. If you long to pray, then avoid all that is opposed to prayer. Then when God draws near, he has only to go along with you.
  • 70. You will not be able to pray purely if you are all involved with material affairs and agitated with unremitting concerns. For prayer is the rejection of concepts.
  • 83. The singing of Psalms quiets the passions and calms the intemperance of the body. Prayer, on the other hand, prepares the spirit to put its own powers into operation.
  • 85. Psalm-singing is an image of wisdom which is many-sided; prayer is the prelude to immaterial and uniform knowledge.
  • 86. Knowledge! The great possession of man. It is a fellow-worker with prayer, acting to awaken the power of thought to contemplate the divine knowledge.
  • 101. Just as bread is nourishment for the body and virtue for the soul, so is spiritual prayer nourishment for the intelligence.

  • 113. By true prayer a monk becomes another angel, for he ardently longs to see the face of the Father in heaven.
  • 114. Do not by any means strive to fashion some image or visualize some form at the time of prayer.
  • 117. Let me repeat this saying of mine that I once expressed on some other occasions: Happy is the spirit that attains to the perfect formlessness at the time of prayer.
  • 118. Happy is the spirit which, praying with 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.
  • 121. Happy is the man who thinks himself no better than dirt.
  • 122. Happy is the monk who views the welfare and progress of all men with as much joy as if it were his own.
  • 123. Happy is the monk who considers all men as god — after God.
  • 124. A monk is a man who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.
  • 125. A monk is a man who considers himself one with all men because he seems constantly to see himself in every man.

  • 150. Just as sight is the most worthy of the sense, so also is prayer the most divine of the virtues.
  • 153. When you give yourself to prayer, rise above every other joy — then you will find true prayer.


If someone should want to behold the state of his mind (nous), let him deprive himself of all mental representations (noemata), and then he shall behold himself resembling sapphire or the colour of heaven.
Sinkewicz, Robert E. (2003). "Reflections". Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus, pp. 210-6. Oxford University Press.

The Skemmata (also known as the Reflections) is a collection of 62 brief, proverb-like chapters.

  • 2. If someone should want to behold the state of his mind, let him deprive himself of all mental representations, and then he shall behold himself resembling sapphire or the colour of heaven. It is impossible to accomplish this without impassibility, for he will need God to collaborate with him and breathe into him the connatural light.
  • 4. The state of the mind is an intelligible height resembling the colour of heaven, to which the light of the Holy Trinity comes in the time of prayer.
  • 6. The pure mind is an incense burner at the time of prayer when it touches upon no sensible object. According to virtue we will be one on the eighth day; according to knowledge, on the last day.
  • 23. The mind cannot see the place of God within itself, unless it has transcended all the mental representations associated with objects. Nor will it transcend them, if it has not put off the passions that bind it to sensible objects through mental representations. And it will lay aside the passions through the virtues, and simple thoughts through spiritual contemplation; and this in turn it will lay aside when there appears to it the light.
  • 26. Prayer is a state of the mind destructive of every earthly mental representation.
  • 27. Prayer is a state of the mind that arises under the influence of the unique light of the Holy Trinity.
  • 34. The mind is the temple of the Holy Trinity.
Evagrius, Kephalaia Gnostika: a new translation of the unreformed text from the Syriac. Translated by Ramelli, Ilaria L. E. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015.
  • The main contemplations are five, under which all contemplation is comprised. And they say that the first is the contemplation of the adorable and holy Trinity, and that the second and the third are the contemplation of the incorporeal and the corporeal realities, and that the fourth and the fifth are the contemplation of the Judgment and of Providence.
    • Kephalaia Gnostika 1.27
  • There was a time when evilness did not exist, and there will be a time when it will no more exist, whereas there was no time when virtue did not exist, and there will be no time when it will not exist. For the germs of virtue are impossible to destroy.
    • Kephalaia Gnostika 1.40
  • Blessed is the one who has reached the knowledge that cannot be abolished (beyond what cannot be, it cannot be gone).
    • Kephalaia Gnostika 3.88
      • Explanatory note: The knowledge that cannot be abolished or surpassed or outdone is the supreme knowledge of the Trinity, the end of the path of gnosis. There is no higher knowledge that can replace it, and it goes together with the final theosis (θέωσις).
Sayings of the Desert Fathers, as translated by Benedicta Ward, SLG (Cistercian Publications: 1975)
  • One day at the Cells, there was an assembly about some matter or other and Abba Evagrius held forth. Then the priest said to him, 'Abba, we know that if you were living in your own country you would probably be a bishop and a great leader; but at present you sit here as a stranger.'
    He was filled with compunction, but was not at all upset and bending his head he replied, 'I have spoken once and will not answer, twice but I will proceed no further.' (Job 40:5)
    • Saying 7, p. 64

Quotes about Evagrius Ponticus

  • Überschauen wir diese Ausführungen, so kann kein Zweifel bestehen, daß die Mystik des Evagrius in ihrer völlig konsequenten Geschlossenheit dem Buddhismus wesentlich näher steht als dem Christentum.
    • There can be no doubt that Evagrius' mysticism in its fully coherent unity is essentially closer to Buddhism than to Christianity.
      • Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Metaphysik und Mystik des Evagrius Ponticus". Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik 14 (1939), pp. 31-47. Quoted and translated in: Dysinger, Luke (2005). Psalmody and Prayer in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-927320-0. .
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