On Logismoi


Wisdom from our Eastern Orthodox brethren concerning Logismoi which is the struggle to bring thoughts into meek obedience. Our own PJ Wizard brought this useful word to my attention.

Here are some excerpts from the Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos Markides in his conversation with Fr. Maximos (now Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol) on the stages of Logismoi:

“The holy elders,” Father Maximos claimed, “identify five stages in the development of a logismos. Of course, I am speaking of a logismos that goes contrary to God’s laws. The first is the assault stage, when the logismos first attacks our mind.”

“Let me give you an example. A thought enters our mind in the form of a suggestion urging us, let us say, to steal. It is as if this logismos knocks at the door of our mind and tells us: ‘Look at this pile of money. Nobody is looking. Take it.’

“When such a logismos strikes, no matter how sinful it may be, it does not render us accountable,” Father Maximos explained. “The quality of our spiritual state is not evaluated on the basis of these assaults. In simple language we commit no sin. The holy elders throughout the ages were relentlessly tempted and assaulted by similar and even worse logismoi.

“The second stage according to the holy elders is what they called interaction.

“It implies opening up of a dialog, an actual exchange with the logismos. When a logismos urges you, for example, to steal that pile of money, you begin to wonder, ‘Should I or should I not? What’s going to happen if I steal it? What’s going to happen if I don’t steal it?’ This is risky and dangerous. However, even at this stage there is no accountability on the part of the individual, no sin committed as yet. The person can indeed examine such a logismos and consider several options without being accountable. But if the person is weak by temperament, then defeat may be the most likely outcome of that exposure to the logismos.”

The third stage in the progression of a logismos is the stage of consent as we would say. You consent to commit what the logismos urges you to do, in this particular case, to steal money. You have made a decision. That’s when guilt and accountability start to emerge. It is the beginning of sin. Jesus was referring to this stage when he proclaimed that if you covet a woman in your mind you have already committed adultery in your heart. The moment this decision is allowed to take root in your heart, then you are well on the way to actually committing the act in the outer world.”

“In the event that a person is unable to free himself from the previous stage, then there is defeat. He becomes hostage to the logismos. The moment the person succumbs, the next time around the logismos returns with greater force. It is much more difficult to resist then. And so it is with the next time and the time after that. The holy elders called it the stage of captivity. That’s when the person can no longer retreat and proceeds along with this act which now becomes a habit that is repeated time and again.”

“Finally, the holy elders identify the end stage in the evolution of a logismos as that of a passion or obsession. The logismos has become an entrenched reality within the consciousness of the person, within the nous. The person becomes a captive of obsessive logismoi, leading to ongoing destructive acts to oneself and to others, such as in the case of a compulsive gambler. The holy elders have warned us that when we become dominated by such passions it is like giving the key or our heart to Satan so that he can get in and out any time he wishes. We see a lot of our brothers and sisters struggling desperately to overcome their obsessive passions and addictions but without much success. They are fully aware that what they do is self-destructive. They are capable of reasoning with clarity of mind, but their heart is captive. They cannot eject from themselves that negative energy that possesses and controls them.”

“So what can be done about these people? Are they beyond hope of freeing themselves from their destructive passions?” I asked.

“Through the Grace of the Holy Spirit everything is possible, including their healing,” Father Maximos replied. Then, like a good teacher, he summarized the five stages.

“So, we have five stages in the evolution of a logismos,” he concluded, spreading out the five fingers of his right hand. “Assault, interaction, consent, captivity, and passion. These are more or less all the stages. They unfold and grow within us sometimes gradually, sometimes like an avalanche.”