Monday, March 29, 2021

The Demonology of Saint Diadochos of Photike

Saint Diadochos distinguishes evil spirits into two categories: into the most subtle psychic demons and into the most material carnal demons. The subtler spirits fight the soul by arousing the psychic passions and the material fight the flesh by arousing the body with carnal desires. Both categories are equivalent, yet they operate "against each other", due to the difference between the soul and the body, which is reflected in both categories of demonic spirits, as long as they affect the soul and the body. When grace does not dwell in man, they nest in the depths of his heart, like real snakes, preventing the soul from desiring good. But when Grace, which was obtained through Baptism, is in man, then they run around the parts of the heart, that is, not in the heart or mind but mainly in the flesh, like dark clouds, taking various formations, in order to distract the mind from its contact with Divine Grace.1

According to the teaching of Christ, as Saint Diadochos mentions in the One Hundred Gnostic Chapters, Satan, when he finds the soul vulnerable, gathers another seven spirits and enters and nests in it, making the situation even more difficult for man (Matt. 12:44). But if the Holy Spirit nestles in us, they cannot enter and settle in the depths of our soul (Rom. 7:22-23 and 8:1). Satan through the body fights the soul that participates in the Holy Spirit, since from the moment that Divine Grace has nestled in the soul after Baptism, it cannot enter into its depths and remain there.2

Saint Diadochos, based on a verse in the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:14-17), shows that because the devil cannot approach Christ-bearing souls, he strikes them with his fiery arrows from a distance, nestling in the body, around the organs of the heart, where it has the ability to penetrate, with the ultimate purpose of enticing the soul with the pleasures of the body.3

Saint Diadochos, through his surviving works, vigorously fights the heretical views of the Messalians or Euchites, who claimed that in the minds of the baptized there coexists Divine Grace (spirit of truth) and sin (spirit of delusion). According to Saint Diadochos, before the Baptism of every Christian, Grace is outside the soul and in its depths Satan nests. But after Baptism, which is our spiritual rebirth, the exact opposite happens, that is, the demon comes out of the soul and Divine Grace nests in it.

Satan continues to tempt the soul even after Baptism, and even worse than before, since in as much as man has Grace in him the war is stronger, but without this meaning that Satan cohabits with Grace. As Saint Diadochos characteristically notes, Satan "fogs the nous with the delight of irrational pleasure through the humors of the body", and this is done with the concession of God, in order for man to be tested, to fight and win with his own effort the "enjoyment of the good".4

Depending on the diligence of the nous, the Lord allows the soul to be disturbed more by the demons, to become more humble and more able to distinguish good from evil, feeling ashamed of the filth of demonic thoughts. And when man loves God with all his soul, then Grace with an unspoken word, makes its presence felt by transmitting to the soul a part of its goodness.5

According to the teaching of the Saint Diadochos, since the character of the soul is one and simple, two persons cannot be present in it at the same time. Especially when there is absolutely no connection between them, since one represents light, meaning Divine Grace, and the other darkness, that is, Satan.6 After all, Satan fell from the heavens like lightning, so that he could not even see the angelic realms. So how is it possible for him to have the human nous in common with God?7

The activity of demons becomes easier when they attack people vulnerable to passions, that is, those who gladly tolerate swearing, talking pointlessly, laughing inappropriately, get angry indiscriminately or desire vain glory. Then, using love of glory as a pretext for evil, they enter and seize their souls.8 When the heart accepts the arrows of the demons, it feels at first a warm pain as if it is really carrying them on it.9 If he manages to defeat almost all the passions, the last two demons are left to fight him, where the former disturbs the soul leading him from great divine love to untimely zeal and the latter attacks the body and moves it towards the desire of carnal pleasure.10 The machinations of the demons remain inactive in the man who is not dependent on worldly things, but by keeping the memory of God constant, he continually strives to cultivate the virtues and keep the divine commandments.11


1. "Spiritual knowledge teaches us that there are two kinds of evil spirits: some are more subtle, others more material in nature. The more subtle demons attack the soul, while the others hold the flesh captive through their lascivious enticements. Thus there is a complete contrast between the demons that attack the soul and those that attack the body, even though they have the same propensity to inflict harm on mankind. When grace does not dwell in a man, they lurk like serpents in the depths of the heart, never allowing the soul to aspire towards God. But when grace is hidden in the intellect, they then move like dark clouds through the different parts of the heart, taking the form of sinful passions or of all kinds of day-dreams, thus distracting the intellect from the remembrance of God and cutting it off from grace. When the passions of our soul, especially presumption, the mother of all evils, are inflamed by the demons that attack the soul, then it is by thinking on the dissolution of our body that we grow ashamed of our gross love of praise. We should also think about death when the demons that attack the body try to make our hearts seethe with shameful desires, for only the thought of death can nullify all the various influences of the evil spirits by bringing us back to the remembrance of God. If, however, the demons that attack the soul induce in us by this thought an excessive depreciation of human nature on the grounds that, being mortal, it is valueless - and this is what they like to do when we torment them with the thought of death - we should recall the honor and glory of the heavenly kingdom, though without losing sight of the bitter and dreadful aspects of judgment. In this way we both relieve our despondency and restrain the frivolity of our hearts." (100 Chapters, 81)

2. "In the Gospels the Lord teaches us that when Satan returns and finds his home swept and empty - finds, that is to say, the heart barren - he then musters seven other spirits and enters it and lurks there, making its last state worse than its first (cf Matt. 12:44-45). From this we must understand that so long as the Holy Spirit is in us, Satan cannot enter the depths of the soul and remain there. Paul too clearly conveys this same spiritual understanding. When he looks at the matter from the viewpoint of those still engaged in the ascetic struggle, he says: 'For with the inward man I delight in the law of God: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my intellect, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members' (Rom. 7; 22 — 23). But when he looks at it from the viewpoint of those who have attained perfection, he says: 'There is therefore now no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and death' (Rom. 8: 1 -2). Again, so as to teach us once more that it is through the body that Satan attacks the soul which participates in the Holy Spirit, he says: 'Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the gospel of peace, above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able quench all the fiery arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God' (Eph. 6:14-17)." (100 Chapters, 82)

3. "Captivity is one thing, battle is another. Captivity signifies a violent abduction, while battle indicates a contest between equally matched adversaries. For precisely this reason the Apostle says that the devil attacks with fiery arrows those who carry Christ in their souls. For someone who is not at close grips with his enemy uses arrows against him, attacking him from a distance. In the same way, when, because of the presence of grace, Satan can lurk no longer in the intellect of those pursuing a spiritual way, he lurks in the body and exploits its humors, so that through its proclivities he may seduce the soul. We should therefore weaken the body to some extent, so that the intellect does not slide down the smooth path of sensual pleasure because of the body's humors. We should believe the Apostle when he says that the intellect of those pursuing the spiritual way is energized by divine light, and therefore obeys and rejoices in the law of God (cf. Rom. 7:22). But the flesh, because of its proclivities, readily admits evil spirits, and so is sometimes enticed into serving their wickedness." (100 Chapters, 82)

4. "Some have imagined that both grace and sin - that is, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error - are hidden at the same time in the intellect of the baptized. As a result, they say, one of these two spirits urges the intellect to good, the other to evil. But from Holy Scripture and through the intellect's own insight I have come to understand things differently. Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect's ways of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace: on the contrary, it is because he uses the body's humors to befog the intellect with the delight of mindless pleasures. God allows him to do this, so that a man, after passing through a trial of storm and fire, may come in the end to the full enjoyment of divine blessings. For it is written: 'We went through fire and water, and Thou hast brought us out into a place where the soul is refreshed' (Ps. 66. 12. LXX)." (100 Chapters, 76)

5. "As we have said, from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect, concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to his soul. -Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Matt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect. During this process, however, the Lord allows the soul to be pestered increasingly by demons. This is to teach it to discriminate correctly between good and evil, and to make it more humble through the deep shame it feels during its purification because of the way in which it is defiled by demonic thoughts." (100 Chapters, 77)

6. "We are reborn through water by the action of the holy and life-creating Spirit, so that if we commit ourselves totally to God, we are immediately purified in soul and body by the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us and drives out sin. Since the form imprinted on the soul is single and simple, it is not possible, as some have thought, for two contrary powers to be present in the soul simultaneously. For when through holy baptism divine grace in its infinite love permeates the lineaments of God's image - thereby renewing in the soul the capacity for attaining the divine likeness - what place is there for the devil'? For light has nothing in common with darkness (cf 2 Cor. 6:14). We who are pursuing the spiritual way believe that the protean serpent is expelled from the shrine of the intellect through the waters of baptism; but we must not be surprised if after baptism we still have wicked as well as good thoughts. For although baptism removes from us the stain resulting from sin, it does not thereby heal the duality of our will immediately, neither does it prevent the demons from attacking us or speaking deceitful words to us. In this way we are led to take up the weapons of righteousness, and to preserve through the power of God what we could not keep safe through the efforts of our soul alone." (100 Chapters, 78)

7. "The Lord himself declares that Satan fell from heaven like lightning (cf Luke 10:18): this was to prevent him, in his hideousness, from looking on the dwelling-places of the holy angels." (100 Chapters, 86)

8. "Those who love the pleasures of this present life pass from evil thoughts to actual sins. Since they lack discrimination, they turn almost all their sinful thoughts into wicked words or unholy deeds. Those, on the other hand, who are trying to pursue the ascetic hfe, struggle first against external sins and then go on to struggle against evil thoughts and malicious words. So when the demons find such people cheerfully abusing others, indulging in idle and inept talk, laughing at the wrong time, uncontrollably angry or desiring vain and empty glory, they join forces to attack them. Using love of praise in particular as a pretext for their evil schemes, the demons slip into the soul - as though through a window at night - and despoil it. So those who wish to live virtuously should not hanker after praise, be involved with too many people, keep going out, or abuse others (however much they deserve it), or talk excessively, even if they can speak well on every subject. Too much talk radically dissipates the intellect, not only making it lazy in spiritual work but also handing it over to the demon of listlessness, who first enervates it completely and then passes it on to the demons of dejection and anger. The intellect should therefore devote itself continually to keeping the holy commandments and to deep mindfulness of the Lord of glory. For it is written: 'Whoever keeps the commandment will know no evil thing' (Eccles. 8:5. LXX) - that is, will not be diverted to base thoughts or words." (100 Chapters, 96)

9. "When the heart feels the arrows of the demons with such burning pain that the man under attack suffers as if they were real arrows, then the soul hates the passions violently, for it is just beginning to be purified. It if does not suffer greatly at the shamelessness of sin, it will not be able to rejoice fully in the blessings of righteousness. He who wishes to cleanse his heart should keep it continually aflame through practicing the remembrance of the Lord Jesus, making this his only study and his ceaseless task. Those who desire to free themselves from their corruption ought to pray not merely from time to time but at all times: they should give themselves always to prayer, keeping watch over their intellect even when outside places of prayer. When someone is trying to purify gold, and allows the fire of the furnace to die down even for a moment, the material which he is purifying will harden again. So, too, a man who merely practices the remembrance of God from time to time loses through lack of continuity what he hopes to gain through his prayer. It is a mark of one who truly loves holiness that he continually bums up what is worldly in his heart through practicing the remembrance of God, so that little by little evil is consumed in the fire of this remembrance and his soul completely recovers its natural brilliance with still greater glory." (100 Chapters, 97)

10. "When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, there remain two demons that still fight against him. The first troubles the soul by diverting it from its great love of God into a misplaced zeal, so that it does not want any other soul to be as pleasing to God as itself. The second demon inflames the body with sexual lust. This happens to the body in the first place because sexual pleasure with a view to procreation is something natural and so it easily overcomes us; and in the second place it happens because God allows it. When the Lord sees an ascetic maturing in all the virtues. He sometimes allows him to be defiled by this sort of demon, so that the ascetic will regard himself as lower than those living in the world. Of course, this passion troubles men not only after they mature in the virtues, but also before that; in either case the soul is made to appear worthless, however great its virtues may be. We should fight the first of these demons by means of great humility and love, and the second by means of self-control, freedom from anger, and intense meditation on death, until we come to perceive unceasingly the energy of the Holy Spirit within us and rise with the Lord's help above even these passions." (100 Chapters, 99)

11. "Sin itself drives us towards God, once we repent and have become aware of its burden, foul stink and lunacy. But if we refuse to repent, sin does not drive us towards God. In itself it holds us fast with bonds that we cannot break, making the desires which drive us to our own destruction all the more vehement and fierce." (100 Chapters, 57)