CH Demonology

November 25, 2017 | Author: Doron3 | Category: Asceticism, Demons, Origen, Monk, Gnosticism
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American Society of Church History

The Making of Monastic Demonology: Three Ascetic Teachers on Withdrawal and Resistance Author(s): David Brakke Reviewed work(s): Source: Church History, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 19-48 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church History Stable URL: . Accessed: 01/01/2012 14:27 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].

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TheMakingof Monastic Demonology: ThreeAscetic Teacherson Withdrawal and Resistance DAVID


Although in recent years fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian monasticism has received much scholarly attention of increasing methodological and theoretical sophistication, conflict with demons, a primary metaphor for the ascetic life in the literature of the period, has been left relatively unexplored.1 One reason for this lack of attention is a shift in the intellectual paradigms through which scholars approach ascetic literature:as they have moved from psychological and theological models to social and performative ones in interpreting ascetic theory and practice, seemingly subjective or theological themes such as demonological theory have given way to more culEarlier versions of this paper were read at the American Society of Church History (ASCH) Winter Meeting (Chicago, January 2000) and at the Princeton University Seminar on Late Antiquity (February 2000). I am grateful to the organizers of those sessions, Elizabeth A. Clark (ASCH) and Jaclyn L. Maxwell and Peter Brown (Princeton), and to the participants, especially Teresa Shaw, Virginia Burrus, Sarah Iles Johnston, and Peter Struck, for their questions, criticisms, and suggestions. For comments on the written version, thanks go to Bert Harrill and to the anonymous readers for this journal. Research for this paper was supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. 1. Some of the most significant recent works on early Egyptian monasticism are Philip Rousseau, Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jeromeand Cassian (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978); idem, Pachomius:TheMaking of a Communityin Fourth-CenturyEgypt, Transformations of the Classical Heritage 6 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Samuel Rubenson, The Lettersof St. Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint, Studies in Antiquity and Christianity (1990; reprint, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995); Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early ChristianMonasticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Graham Gould, The Desert Fathers on Monastic Community, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993); Susanna Elm, "Virgins of God": The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity, Oxford Classical Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 226-372; and the essays of James E. Goehring, now collected in his Ascetics, Society, and the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism, Studies in Antiquity & Christianity (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1999). For a measure of the neglect of demons, see the sparse entry "demons" in the index to Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, eds., Asceticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), admittedly focused not on early Christianity alone.

David Brakkeis an associateprofessorof religiousstudies at IndianaUniversity. @ 2001,The AmericanSociety of ChurchHistory ChurchHistory70:1(March2001) 19



tural topics, such as constructions of the body and formations of ascetic institutions and practices, with their accompanying politics.2 But the neglect of demons is a function also of the weighty influence exercised by two fourth-century demonologists, Athanasius of Alexandria and Evagrius of Pontus, and of the powerful modern explications of monastic demonology based on these important sources.3 Together the Life of Antony and the works of Evagrius construct, it seems, the monastic demonology, upon which later sources only elaborate.4 There is some truth in this view, for Athanasius and Evagrius both epitomized views that were widespread among monks of their contexts and provided paradigms for later monastic authors, such as John Cassian and John Climacus. Still, recent scholarship has warned against allowing especially the Lifeof Antony to determine our understanding of the nature and development of ascetic and monastic movements in fourth-century Egypt: in comparison to what Athanasius presents, many of the early monks, including Antony himself, were better educated and less rustic, more urban and less solitary, more diverse in their lifestyles and less naive in their philosophical outlooks.5 Likewise, the best of more recent studies of monastic demonology have, so to speak, made an end-run around Athanasius and Evagrius to examine other sources, sometimes from more social and cultural perspectives.6 Such is the strategy of this essay, which examines the construction of monastic demonology in three sets of writings whose authors most likely developed their views of demons apart from that of the Life of Antony: the letters or treatises attributed to Antony the Great, his disciple Ammonas, and Paul of Tamma. All of these sources come from monastic teachers, the quality and longevity of whose ascetic discipline had made them authoritative 2. The changing scholarly approaches are well surveyed by Elizabeth A. Clark, Reading Renunciation:Asceticism and Scripturein Early Christianity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 14-38. 3. The classic exposition is the section on "la plus ancienne litt6rature monastique" by Antoine and Claire Guillaumont, in "D6mon," Dictionnaire de spiritualite ascetique et mystique: doctrine et histoire 3 (1957): 189-212. 4. So the Guillaumonts state that the demonology of Athanasius, Evagrius, and Cassian "devient la demonologie classique du desert" ("Demon," 210). 5. See esp. Rubenson, Letters of St. Antony and Goehring, Ascetics, Society, and the Desert. Not everyone is convinced: see Graham Gould, "Recent Work on Monastic Origins: A Consideration of the Questions Raised By Samuel Rubenson's The Letters of Antony," Studia Patristica 25 (1993): 405-16. 6. Rousseau, Pachomius, 134-41; Peter Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978), 81-101; Richard Valantasis, "Daemons and the Perfecting of the Monk's Body: Monastic Anthropology, Daemonology, and Asceticism," Semeia 58 (1992): 47-79.



figures and whose literary works are addressed to disciples. Stylistically, these writings are closely related to the tradition of wisdom literature, rooted both in such biblical books as Proverbs and Sirach Aland in such Egyptian texts as the Instructionsof Ankhsheshonqy.7 ready Alexandrian Christians had adapted this genre for the presentation of theological and ascetic teaching in the Teachingsof Silvanus, AuthoritativeTeaching,and other works. The literary features of wisdom-addresses to the reader(s) as "son" or "children," exhortations to understand and to know, short declarative statements without extensive justification, frequent use of the connective "for" (y 6p)indicate its basis in or its attempt to emulate the interaction between teacher and student.8 Making use of this genre, monks such as Antony, Paul, and Ammonas represented a new incarnation of antiquity's venerable figure of the spiritual guide.9 In the cities of the Roman empire, ad hoc study circles formed and disbanded around charismatic philosopher-teachers of a variety of philosophical and religious stripes.1oIn Christian Egypt such figures included Clement of Alexandria, Valentinus, Origen, and Arius. While it may once have been possible to consider monks of Middle and Upper Egypt such as Antony to be clearly distinct from such Alexandrian intellectuals, it is so no longer. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, the newly described presence of Hermetic circles in upper Egyptian cities,11and

7. On the wisdom style of Antony's letters, see Rubenson, Letters,49; of Paul's writings, see Tim Vivian, "Saint Paul of Tamma on the Monastic Cell (de Cella)," Hallel 23 (1998): 86-107, at 89. 8. William R. Schoedel, "Jewish Wisdom and the Formation of the Christian Ascetic," in Aspects of Wisdom in Judaismand Early Christianity, ed. Robert L. Wilken (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), 169-99. See Pierre Hadot's discussion of the relation between the literary forms of ancient philosophical works and the oral context of teaching in "Forms of Life and Forms of Discourse in Ancient Philosophy," in his Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercisesfrom Socrates to Foucault (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 49-70, at 61-64. 9. Hadot, "Ancient Spiritual Exercises and 'Christian Philosophy,' " in his Philosophyas a Way of Life, 126-44; see Richard Valantasis, Spiritual Guides of the Third Century: A Semiotic Study of the Guide-DiscipleRelationshipin Christianity, Neoplatonism,Hermetism, and Gnosticism, Harvard Dissertations in Religion 27 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991); Michel Foucault, "Sexuality and Power," in his Religion and Culture (New York: Routledge, 1999), 115-30, at 125. 10. From among a substantial body of literature, see esp. Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries (London: Black, 1969), 194-212; Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Lectures on the History of Religions 13 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 103-108; Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (1986; reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 186-95. 11. Fowden, Egyptian Hermes, 168-76.



the re-evaluation of an ascetic teacher like Hieracas of Leontopolis,12 among other scholarly developments, have enabled scholars to imagine identities for early monks more sophisticated than "simple Copts." Likewise, while it may seem instinctually right to attribute the monastic interest in demons to the lower sophistication and pagan backgrounds of many Egyptian monks ("folklore"), demonologythat is, sustained theoretical reflection on the nature and activities of demons-was an intellectual endeavor that engaged the interests of precisely the philosophers who functioned as spiritual guides in antiquity's elite academic milieu. Within the Egyptian tradition, Origen and the Valentinians most extensively developed understandings of how demons challenged the person attempting to make spiritual progress. Antony, Ammonas, and Paul constructed their monastic demonologies by adapting these earlier views on the demonic role in philosophical self-cultivation to the new monastic projects of the fourth century. Their differing theories of demons reveal the diversity of ends for which such "ambiguous and anomalous" beings could be employed.13 In Antony's teaching, elements of Origenist and Valentinian thought are most apparent as demons emerge as principles of differentiation resistant to the ascetic's return to an original unity of "spiritual essence." In the Lettersof Ammonas, we are able to observe a monastic teacher creating a demonology that responds to crises in the spiritual development of his disciples and that justifies one form of the monastic life as superior to others. Stressing the need for complete isolation in one's cell, Paul of Tamma considers demons to have been rendered weak by the power of God; human beings represent a far greater danger to the monk's virtue. Despite these differences, all three authors articulated their demonologies out of an inherited set of traditions to address a new series of tensions created by monastic withdrawal: unity vs. difference, solitude vs. community, desert vs. city. Resistance to virtue became increasingly located in the existence and influence of the multitude of other people and the means of overcoming such resistance, in the focused instruction of the single ascetic teacher. Withdrawal created its own momentum, however, which could at its extreme leave demons powerless and even the monastic guide dangerous.

12. James E. Goehring, "Hieracas of Leontopolis: The Making of a Desert Ascetic," in his Ascetics, Society, and the Desert, 110-33. 13. The quoted phrase is from Brown, Making of Late Antiquity, 20.




Scholars had long suspected that the portrayal of Antony the Great in Athanasius's Life of Antony may not present a completely reliable portrait of the famous monk since its shape clearly reflected Athanasius's own theology as well as commonplaces in the literary lives of pagan sages. Although the letters attributed to Antony were available in Latin translations, scholars did not turn to them for more trustworthy information about him, but to the sayings traditions (apophthegmata);14the authenticity of the letters seemed dubious, and their transmission in several different languages is complex and disordered.15 In 1990, however, Samuel Rubenson published his thorough study of the letters and made a compelling case for their authenticity. His work contributed substantially to the new perspectives on early Egyptian monasticism that I described above. Rather than Athanasius's simple, uneducated Copt (a picture undermined even within the Life itself), Antony has emerged as a thoughtful, philosopically inclined ascetic, whose teaching emphasizes the transformative nature of "knowledge" (gnosis) of self and God. In its basic elements Antony's demonology is indebted to that of Origen.16 All created beings, including angels, heavenly bodies, human beings, and demons, originated in a lost unity, from which they fell due to their "evil conduct." Antony speaks of the resulting diversity of creatures in terms of the "names" that God assigned to themarchangel, principality, demon, and the like-based on the quality of their conduct, and thus Antony echoes Origen's discussion of such names in Book I of First Principles."7The devil and his demons, "since their part is in the hell to come," plot against human beings: "they want us to be lost with them."18Their means of attack are diverse, and thus monks require "a heart of knowledge and a spirit of discern14. Hermann Dorries, "Die Vita Antonii als Geschichtsquelle" (1949), reprint in his Wort und Stunde, 3 vols. (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966-70), 1: 145-244. 15. Only fragments of Antony's original Coptic survive; otherwise, there are multiple versions, of which the Georgian and Latin are most important (Rubenson, Letters, 15-34). I am dependent, therefore, on Rubenson's translation, which is based on comparison of the several versions, although at times I have preferred the older translation by Derwas Chitty, The Letters of St. Antony (Fairacres, U.K.: SLG, 1974). 16. Rubenson, Letters, 64-68, 86-88. 17. Antony, epp. 5.40-42; 6.57-62 (Rubenson, Letters, 215, 220); see Origen, Princ. 1.5.2-3 (Sources Chretiennes [SC] 252:176-82). 18. Antony, ep. 6.19-20 (Rubenson, Letters, 217). Rubenson takes the reference to "hell" and "perdition" here to indicate that, unlike Origen, Antony does not believe that the demons can be restored to unity with God (Letters, 87). But it is doubtful that this passage alone can support such a conclusion since even Origen can speak of the devil and the demons being condemned to hell (see Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The Early Christian Tradition [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981], 143, with refs.).



ment" to recognize their "secret evils."19 In particular, the monk must discriminate among three kinds of bodily movements: those that are natural to the body, those caused by the monk's own negligence in food and drink, and those caused by demons.20 The mind or soul that fails to attend to the teachings of the Spirit of God becomes disordered, allows the demons to stir up movements within the body, and serves as "a guide to the evil spirits working in its members." Still, even this condition will bring the monk to weariness and despair, to reliance on God's help, and thus to conversion and healing.21 The demons themselves are invisible, but a monk's capitulation to their suggestions renders them visible on the monk's person: "And if you seek, you will not find their sins and iniquities revealed bodily, for they are not visible bodily. But you should know that we are their bodies, and that our soul receives their wickedness; and when it has received them, then it reveals them through the body in which we dwell."22 Demons are "all hidden, and we reveal them by our deeds."23 Antony's demons operate as products, agents, and symbols of diversity and separation as opposed to uniformity and unity; thus, like all fallen creatures, they have names. Demons are "all from one in their spiritual essence; but through their flight from God great diversity has arisen between them since their deeds are varying. Therefore all these names have been imposed on them after the deeds of each one."24 There is, then, something deceptive and unreal about names, "all" of which have been "given" to creatures, "whether male or female, for the sake of the variety of their deeds and in conformity with their own minds, but they are all from one."25Onomastic diversity belies essential unity. Although the basis of this teaching on names derives from Origen, Antony's pervasive reflection on names as secondary and as masking the origination of all spiritual beings in a unity owes as much to the Valentinian tradition as to Origen. Speculation about the power and mystery of divine names was characteristic of Alexandrian and Egyptian Christianity from their origins.26 Such speculation was part of a wider philosophical and 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

Antony, ep. 6.27-29, 49 (Rubenson, Letters, 218-19). Antony, ep. 1.35-41 (Rubenson, Letters, 199). Antony, ep. 1.42-45, 72 (Rubenson, Letters, 200, 202). Antony, ep. 6.50-51 (Rubenson, Letters, 219). Antony, ep. 6.55 (Rubenson, Letters, 220). Antony, ep. 6.56-57 (Rubenson, Letters, 220, alt.). Antony, ep. 6.62 (Rubenson, Letters, 220, alt.). Colin H. Roberts, Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt, Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1977 (London: Oxford University Press, 1979), 26-48.



religious conversation about names that addressed epistemology, language, and the effectiveness of magic.27 The Christian apologist Theophilus of Antioch adopted the theory that names reveal accurately the natures of their referents in his attempt to create a history of culture that would legitimate Christian claims to truth.28In Egypt, however, Valentinus and his followers articulated a more ambivalent view of names as they extended Alexandrian name-mysticism into reflection on how both ordinary and sacred names do and do not evoke the presence and identity of the beings they purport to identify.29 Valentinus used the concept of naming to transform "what in the Gnostic version [of the creation of humanity] was a metaphor of lack or deficiency into a metaphor of fullness and plenitude."30 But Valentinus's evocation of fullness depended on a contrast between "proper" or "lordly" names and more defective names "on loan."31 Followers of Valentinus elaborated on this contrast. According to the Gospelof Philip, "names given to worldly things are very deceptive, since they turn the heart aside from the real to the unreal"; they can be tools of "the rulers," who seek "to deceive humanity by the names and bind them to the nongood."32 Although the name "Christian"has great power, persons who have been baptized only and who have not received the Holy Spirit have only "borrowed the name."33The original unity of the fullness is associated with a single true Name, "an unnamable Name" (Ovoa 6Mvov6~oacrTov),which is the Son; the fallen aeons, who have moved into multiplicity and away from unity, possess now only "a shadow of the Name" or a "partial name" (T6 As the Valentinianssaw it, naming in this Uppos xo•T( is deceptive, a function of the fall away from reality and world6io•Lo).34 present unity into materiality and diversity. The illusory characterof ordinary names plays into the hands of the demonic rulers, whose existence itself bears witness to this fall.35 27. See M. Hirschle, Sprachphilosophieund Namenmagie im Neuplatonismus, Beitriige zur klassischen Philologie 96 (Meisenheim an Glan: Heim, 1979). 28. Arthur J. Droge, Homer or Moses? Early ChristianInterpretationsof the History of Culture, Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Theologie 26 (Tiibingen: J. C. B. M6hr, 1989), 104-108. 29. David Dawson, Allegorical Readersand Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 127-82, esp. 153-67. 30. Dawson, Allegorical Readers, 139, interpreting Valentinus's Fragments C and D (trans. Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1986], 234-37). 31. Dawson, Allegorical Readers, 161. 32. Gospel According to Philip 53:23-27; 54:18-25 (Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 330-31). 33. Gospel According to Philip 62:26-35; 64:22-28 (Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 338-39). 34. Clement of Alexandria, Exc. Theod. 31.3-4 (SC 23:126-28). 35. The Valentinians developed this ambivalent teaching about names in a controversy with "ecclesiastical Christians," in which all parties were using the same terms ("Fa-



Antony likewise associates multiple names with the fall away from unity into diversity, epitomized by the diversity of the evil spirits. The names of "Jesus" and "saint" can themselves be deceptive, cloaks that cover with the "form of godliness" persons who actually "act according to their own hearts and bodies."36 Ordinary names, meanwhile, fail completely to name people's true identities, that is, "themselves as they were created, namely as an eternal substance, which is not dissolved with the body."37 Multiple names of transient flesh must give way to the single real name through self-knowledge: A sensible man who has prepared himself to be freed at the coming of Jesus knows himself in his spiritual essence, for he who knows himself also knows the dispensations of the Creator, and what he does for his creatures. Beloved in the Lord, our members and joint heirs with the saints, I beseech you in the name of Jesus Christ to act so that he gives you all the Spirit of discernment to perceive and understand that the love I have for you is not the love of the flesh, but the love of godliness. About your names in the flesh there is nothing to say; they will vanish. But if a man knows his true name he will also perceive the name of Truth. As long as he was struggling with the angel through the night Jacob was called Jacob,but when it dawned he was called Israel, which means "a mind that sees God" (see Gen. 32:24-28).38 Antony contrasts the monks' "names in the flesh" with their identity as "holy Israelite children, in their spiritual essence";39 the monks' diversity as "young and old, male and female," with their unity as "Israelite children, saints in your spiritual essence."40 "There is," Antony tells his readers, "no need to bless, nor to mention, your transient names in the flesh."41 In light of these passages, it comes as no surprise that, with the exception of the author, the only contemporary person whose name appears in the letters is the heresiarch Arius, who "did not know himself."42 People have multiple names of flesh-Jacob, Antony, Arius, and many other besides--just as, in their fallen condition they have diverse bodies and individual wills; but they share only one true name, Israel, as they share only one spiritual

36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42.

ther," "church," "resurrection") to refer to different realities. See Klaus Koschorke, "Die 'Namen' in Philippusevangelium: Beobachtungen zur Auseinandersetzung zwischen gnostischen und kirchlichen Christentum," Zeitschrift fiir die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft64 (1973): 307-22, esp. 314-20. Antony, epp. 3.35; 7.46-48 (Rubenson, Letters, 208, 228). Antony, ep. 3.12 (Rubenson, Letters, 206). Antony, ep. 3.1-6 (Rubenson, Letters, 206). Antony, ep. 5.1-2 (Rubenson, Letters, 212); see ep. 7.5 (Rubenson, Letters, 225). Antony, ep. 6.2 (Rubenson, Letters, 216). Antony, ep. 6.78 (Rubenson, Letters, 221). Antony, ep. 4.17-18 (Rubenson, Letters, 211).



essence. Names, like demons, are symptoms of individuality, which is, in Rubenson's words, "a result of the fall and of diversity, and something that belongs to corporeal and transient existence."43 Antony is drawing on a long tradition of Alexandrian ascetic exegesis of Genesis 32. According to Philo, whom Clement and Origen follow, Jacob's wrestling with the angel represents the ethical life of struggle with the passions, while the name Israel, meaning "one who sees God," signifies the contemplative life, which victory over the passions allows.44 But Antony elaborates on this tradition by associating "Jacob,"one's "name in the flesh," with transience, diversity, corporeality, as well as struggle with the demons, and "Israel,"one's "true name," with eternity, unity, spirituality, and thus overcoming the condition of fallenness represented by the demons. Antony's teaching further echoes Valentinian tradition when it connects discovery of one's "true name" with the ability to "perceive the name of Truth," a mysterious term, most likely related to, but not identical with, "the name of Jesus Christ." The "name of Truth"that belongs to God may ground the validity of the "true name" that belongs to humanity in its single spiritual essence just as for the Valentinians the name of the Son provided the only reality in which the "partial names" of fallen beings shared. The Antonian monk must withdraw from his individual, separate, surface self of the fleshly name to the shared, united, hidden self of the true name. Demons oppose this effort by promoting difference on two levels: through embodied vice they encourage a movement away from the invisible unity of spiritual essence, and through interpersonal strife they incite division within the social unity of the church. These two aspects come together in the metaphor of "the house." At the level of the person, the fallen existence of corporeal individuality, in which the true spiritual self is hidden in the visible body, is troped as confinement in an inhospitable "dwelling."45"We dwell in our death and stay in the house of the robber," also known as "this house of clay," "a house full of war," "this house of dust and darkness," and so forth.46 In this metaphor, a person's true identity as spiritual essence is "invisible," while externality takes on the negative valence of "out-

43. Rubenson, Letters, 68. 44. Mark Sheridan, "I1mondo spirituale e intellettuale del primo monachesimo egiziano," in L'Egitto cristiano: aspetti e problemi in etli tardo-antica,ed. Alberto Camplani, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 56 (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1997), 177-216, at 197-99. 45. Antony, ep. 1.71 (Rubenson, Letters, 201-202). 46. Antony, epp. 5.6, 10; 6.45, 83; 7.12, 20 (Rubenson, Letters, 212, 219, 222, 226).



ward confusion."47 Still, it is unlikely that Antony equates external corporeality with materiality; for most of the ancients, such incorporeal entities as souls were not immaterial, but rather extremely rarefied matter.48The complicated transmission of Antony's letters in multiple languages makes precise recovery of Antony's own philosophical vocabulary (vois, 7Trveip), and the like) difficult, if not impossible,49 but certain passages suggest that Antony shares the common view and thus that the invisible spiritual essence to which the human mind and the demons belong is material and incorporeal. For example, "the soul" of the self-oriented monk is, Antony writes, "the breath of evil spirits," in which "breath"is the Greek 0&6p,transliterated in Georgian. Demonic "air" has replaced such a person's soul; this interior change has negative exterior effects, as the monk's "body [is] a store of evil mysteries which it hides in itself."50 Succumbing to demonic suggestion, then, emerges as a process of negative externalization. Demons, because they share the same spiritual essence as human beings, are "hidden" and "not visible bodily," but they become "revealed bodily" through the monk's actualizing of their sinful potential, by creating embodied deed from spiritual thought. The result is that "we are their [the demons'] bodies."'51Just as the demonic came into being due to a fall away from unity caused by activity, so too the demonic now incites a movement from interior invisible spirituality to exterior visible corporeality, but one that embodies or exteriorizes negative invisible spirituality, namely, the demons. In contrast, virtuous acts effect a positive exteriorization because by them "we shall reveal the essence of our own mercy."52The demons try to cover their tracks by similarly distracting the monk's attention from his own interior life to his monastic colleagues and external circumstances: we are "accusing each other and not ourselves, thinking that our toil is from our fellows, sitting in judgment on what appears outwardly, while the robber is all within our house."53 Although the appellation is a biblical and traditional one, based especially in exegesis of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37),54 the demons are "robbers"for Antony because they 47. Antony, ep. 6.80, 84, 98 (Rubenson, Letters, 221-23). 48. On the distinction between incorporeality and immateriality in ancient thought, see Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 6-15. 49. Rubenson, Letters, 69. 50. Antony, ep. 6.47 (Rubenson, Letters, 219). 51. Antony, ep. 6.49-55 (Rubenson, Letters, 219-20). 52. Antony, ep. 6.67 (Rubenson, Letters, 221). 53. Antony, ep. 6.36-37 (Chitty, Letters, 19). 54. G. J. M. Bartelink, "Les demons comme brigands," Vigiliae Christianae21 (1967): 12-24. See Matt. 21:13, Mark 3:27, Luke 11:21, John 10:8, Eph. 6:10-18. To the many patristic



provoke embodiment or exteriorization of a false identity, one foreign to the monk's actual identity as spiritual essence, thus making the body "their home" rather than the site of a legitimate revealing of one's natural essence and of one's future, resurrected "spiritual body."55 The demons' creation of alienation among monastic colleagues represents their attempt to undermine the social unity of the church, which anticipates the eventual return to the single spiritual essence and is also a "house." In several letters Antony repeats the following social history of salvation, found most completely in Letter 2: In his irrevocable love the Creatorof all desired to visit our afflictions and confusion. He thus raised up Moses, the Lawgiver, who gave us the written law and founded for us the house of truth, the spiritual Church, which creates unity, since it is God's will that we turn back to the first formation. Moses built the house, yet did not finish it, but left and died. Then God by his Spirit raised up the council of prophets, and they built upon the foundation laid by Moses, but could not complete it and likewise they left and died. Invested with the Spirit, they all saw that the wound was incurable and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very mind and image of the Father, who made every rational creature in the image of his image.... He gave himself for our and by the word of his power he gathered us from all lands, sins,.... from one end of the earth to the other, resurrectingour minds, giving us remission of our sins, and teaching us that we are members of one another.56 The church, as "the house of truth" (see Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2-6), is the mechanism through which God restores dispersed and divided crea-

references collected by Bartelink add from Nag Hammadi Teachingsof Silvanus 85:2-3, 13-14; 113:31-33; Interpretationof Knowledge6:19. 55. Antony, epp. 6.53; 1.71 (Rubenson, Letters, 219, 202). The sayings tradition preserves a different Antonian use of the "robber" metaphor: "The monks praised a certain brother before Abba Antony. When the monk came to see him, Antony tested him to see whether he would bear dishonor; and seeing that he could not bear it, he said to him, 'You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but plundered within by robbers'" (Apoph. Patr. 8.2 [SC 387:398-400] = Ant. 151; trans. Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers,Cistercian Studies 59 [Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian, 1975], 4, alt.). More could be said regarding the role of the body in demonic temptation and ascetic transformation in Antony: see Rubenson, Letters, 68-71; Tim Vivian, " 'Everything Made by God is Good': A Letter from Saint Athanasius to the Monk Amoun," ?glise et Theologie24 (1993): 75-108, at 80-84; and David Brakke, "The Problematization of Nocturnal Emissions in Early Christian Syria, Egypt, and Gaul," Journal of Early Christian Studies 3 (1995): 419-60, at 436-38. 56. Antony, ep. 2.9-14, 20-22 (Rubenson, Letters,203-204); see epp. 3.15-25; 5.15-28; 6.6-13; 7.26-30 (Rubenson, Letters, 207, 213-14, 216, 227).



tures to the original unity.57 Although it originated with Moses and the prophets, only Christ could heal the "incurablewound" of human sin, and he was able to gather people from all lands and teach them about their essential unity. Since restoration of unity and the suppression of corporeal individuality are the goals of the church, the demons prey especially on the monk who attends to his own will ("every man who delights in his own desires"), and they "sow the seed of division" among monastic colleagues since "he who loves his neighbor loves God."58The "house of truth" should, through a harmony of wills in love, socially embody the unity of undifferentiated essence. Demonically inspired division exposes the house's characteras a collection of individual and therefore conflicting wills.59 The demonic intruder is, then, "a robber in our house" because it alienates the monk from his spiritual essence at the levels both of his own personality and of the monastic community. Once again Antony's teaching echoes that of at least one stream of Valentinian thought. Valentinus himself drew on the language of the Parable of the Good Samaritan to describe the fallen human heart as a "caravansary" ('rrv8cv0XEov)(Luke 10:34), rendered "impure by being the habitation of many demons."60 The Valentinian author of the Interpretationof Knowledgeelaborated on this demonic inhabitation of the person and, like Antony, on its consequences for the church: "Since the body is a caravansary (rravsoxeov [sic]) that the rulers and the authorities have as a dwelling place, the inner person, having been imprisoned in the modeled form, came into suffering. And having compelled him to serve them, they forced him to assist the powers They divided the church (exxXrlau), so that they might (ev/pyeaLot). inherit."61Although much of the preceding text is lost in a lacuna, the phrases that remain-"robbers," "down to Jericho" (6:19-21)-indicate that this discussion too works from the Good Samaritan Parable. In this case the demonically inspired social division took the specific 57. On the origin of the phrase "house of truth" in exegesis of Num. 12:7 and Heb. 3:2-6, see Janet Timbie, "Biblical Interpretation in the Letters of Antony: Exploring the House of Truth," paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the North American Patristic Society, Chicago, May 2000. 58. Antony, ep. 6.46-48, 104-105 (Rubenson, Letters, 219, 223-24). 59. Asked why he avoided his fellow monks, Arsenius is said to have replied, "God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and people. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while people have many. So I cannot leave God to be with people" (Apoph. Patr. Ars. 13; Ward, Sayings, 11). 60. Valentinus, Epistle on Attachments (Fragment H; Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 245). 61. Interpretationof Knowledge 6:30-38. In monastic sayings the term becomes shorthand for the demonic, especially the demon of fornication (foriv/py•aL example, Apoph. Patr. 5.27, 30, 32, 42 [SC 387:264, 266, 270, 282]).



form of controversy over spiritual gifts (15:26-18:38). While Valentinus had identified the "heart"as the dwelling that the robber demons invade, this teacher anticipates Antony by making it the body and extending the demons' work to dividing the church. Antony's labeling of the body as "the house of the robber" and as potentially the demons' body belongs to this tradition. But Antony departs from his Valentinian predecessors by understanding the estranged body not as the natural, created state, but as the result of succumbing to demonic temptation, and thus as amenable to restoration through the ascetic program. Still, the Antony of the Lettersfaces demons that are far subtler and more dangerous than those faced by the Antony of Athanasius's Life.62Because Antony considers the ascetic life to be a process of return to an original undifferentiated unity, the demons represent the tendency toward separation, division, and individuality. Although they incite a movement toward false externality, they are themselves not forces external to the monk because the monk's very existence as a separate individual implies the demonic pull of division. Demons are built into the structure of the fallen cosmos as the principles of differentiation. There is no individual existence without demonic estrangement, but Antony believes that eventually existence will give way to essence: "Now therefore, I beseech you, my beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to neglect your true life, and not to confound the brevity of this time with time eternal, nor mistake the skin of corruptible flesh with the reign of ineffable light, and not to let this place of damnation squander the angelic thrones of judgment."63 Antony's sense of the radical fallenness of this "place of damnation" suggests currents in his thought that run not only from Origen and from Christian wisdom such as the Teachingsof Silvanus,64 but also from the Gnostics and the Valentinians. Antony himself may betray his awareness of such proclivities in his teaching and so his need to renounce them when, speaking of "forerunners"of Christ, he says, "I do not hesitate to say that Moses, who gave us the law, is one of them."65In any event, his demonology harnessed insights from such philosophical traditions of Egyptian Christianity to a monastic goal of annihilation of the individual self or, rather, its reabsorption into an original undifferentiated unity. This objective is similar to what Hadot 62. See Rubenson, Letters, 139-40. 63. Antony, ep. 5.37 (Rubenson, Letters, 214). 64. On Antony and wisdom literature from Nag Hammadi, see Wincenty Myszor, "Antonius-Briefe und Nag-Hammadi-Texte," Jahrbuchfiir Antike und Christentum32 (1989): 72-88. 65. Antony, ep. 3.16-17 (Rubenson, Letters, 207).



identifies as the aim of note-taking for ancient philosophers: "the point is not to forge oneself a spiritual identity by writing, but rather to liberate oneself from one's individuality, in order to raise oneself up to universality... to accede to the universality of reason within the confines of space and time."66Antony adapts previous demonologies to create a philosophical ideology, in a cosmological or mythological mode, for monastic withdrawal; as principles of differentiation, the demons render problematic individuality and difference, the symptoms of society as a collection of selves. II. AMMONAS: ENEMIES IN THE DESERT As epistles of spiritual direction that reflect actual interaction between the monastic guide and his disciples, the Lettersof Ammonas present a particularly welcome form of evidence. If the attribution to Ammonas the disciple of Antony is correct,67 the letters must be dated to the third quarter of the fourth century, a period of change in many of the monastic groups of Egypt, as recognized leaders passed away and their successors struggled to carry on their legacies.68 Unlike Antony's letters, which remain abstractin their content and consistent in their themes, the fourteen letters of Ammonas speak to concrete difficulties in the lives of the recipients and reveal an ascetic master adapting his teaching to changing circumstances. Fortunately, the collection of the letters in Syriac retains the sequence of this interaction; the extant Greek text is the result of a cut-and-paste job that has obscured changes in Ammonas's thought, while at least preserving some of his original Greek vocabulary.69 Examined in sequence, the letters reveal how a monastic teacher constructed simultaneously theories of demons and of his own authority. The letters divide roughly into four moments in the relationship between Ammonas and his disciples, moments defined by the evolving authority of Ammonas and by crises that Ammonas identifies as "trials" or "temptations" in the ascetic lives of the recipients. In 66. Hadot, "Reflections on the Idea of the 'Cultivation of the Self,' " in his Philosophy as a Way of Life, 206-13, at 210-11. 67. The most extensive discussion of their authenticity remains Franz Klejna, "Antonius und Ammonas: Eine Untersuchung tiber Herkunft und Eigenart der iltesten Mbnchsbriefe," Zeitschriftfiir katholischeTheologie62 (1938): 309-48, at 320-26. 68. In general, see Rousseau, Ascetics, Authority, and the Church,33-67. 69. Klejna, "Antonius und Ammonas," 312-20. The Syriac text was edited by Michael Kmosko, Ammonii Eremitae Epistolae, Patrologia Orientalia (PO) 10.6 (Paris: FirminDidot, 1913); the Greek by F. Nau, Ammonas:Successeurde saint Antoine, PO 11.4 (Paris: Firmin-Didot, n.d.). I have used but have regularly altered the translation by Derwas J. Chitty and Sebastian Brock, The Letters of Ammonas, Successor of Saint Antony (Fairacres, U.K.: SLG, 1979).



Letters 1 to 4 Ammonas presents a relatively simple map of the monk's spiritual progress. The struggle to attain virtue with one's "whole heart" through ascetic discipline is rewarded when the monk receives from God first a "divine power" (&6viotps OFix) or "guardian" (
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