Logismoi: Mental Images and How to Cope With Them (by a Monk Priest from Mount Athos)

Originally appeared at: Light of the Desert

1. The Hard Fight 

It has been said very often that prayer is a dynamic, useful, and godly act for the person praying. This fact irritates the devil and leads him to resist those who pray.

The believer, in his longing to unite with God, encounters systematically organized demonic obstacles and is thus faced with an immense, planned attack.

Because of this planned attack, prayer becomes a very arduous act and requires much effort. That is why one of the desert fathers emphasizes:

"There is no greater effort than prayer to God. In order to be able to pray to the last breath, one has to fight".

It is not just prayer that exhausts, it is the hard and relentless resistance of the demons that makes prayer really tedious. And the hatred of demons towards those who pray is a fact. The attack of the demons against praying people consists of two forms: one visible and one invisible; he meets both the innocent and the enlightened. In the former, there is often a visible attack. Demons use noise or objects to cause disturbance to distract attention. But both, the innocent and the enlightened, are mainly attacked by the logismoi.

Those who fight against the logismoi undertake a hard fight, because they are the greatest obstacle to the intellectual education and perfection of man. And this perfection cannot be attained other than by constantly invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the invocation must be frequent, because as St. Gregory the Theologian emphasizes, "it is to remember God rather than to breathe".

However, there is this internal war. No other war is more cruel than an absurd logism that has taken root in our souls. Everything that comes from within is much more serious than everything else that attacks us from the outside. The worm that is born in the wood eats it up from the inside. The diseases that arise from within are insidious and cause greater destruction than those caused by external influences. Many powerful nations were not destroyed by enemies from outside, but enemies from within.

So the soul cannot be corrupted so much by external influences, as by sufferings that grow deep within us, namely by immoral and blasphemous thoughts (logismoi). 

2. The Logismoi and Their Origins

What are the logismoi and where do they come from?

When we talk about logismoi, we don't just mean the thoughts, but also the images and ideas with which the corresponding thoughts are closely connected. The images, together with the associated thoughts, are called logismoi.

The first and most important cause of logismoi is original sin. Before that, the human mind was "undivided", i.e. was focused only on God and was not distracted by anything. Since the onset of original sin, the logismos of quarreling and discord began to work, followed by all other logismoi.

The second cause that brings about the logismoi are the sense organs, when these are not directed by their guide, the mind, especially hearing and sight. Especially nowadays, due to progress, the senses receive many more stimuli than ever before. This is one of the reasons why the fight against the logismoi has become more intense.

The third cause is the passions that are inherent in man. These «taking the demons as an occasion, arouse malign logismoi in us».

The fourth and fundamental cause is the demons themselves. St. Gregory of Sinai expressly emphasizes: "The logismoi are the talk of demons and forerunners of passions".

Saint Isaac the Syrians emphasizes that the logismoi are not only brought about by "the will that is naturally present in us" but also by the inclinations, longings and desires of the soul.

The latter are particularly intense with the monks, who therefore often have to fight very hard during the attack of such logismoi. Saint Maximus the Confessor emphasizes that this battle is much more difficult than the war perceptible by the senses.

Cunning [malicious] logismoi can also start from the physical constitution, from everyday eating habits and from body movements. 

In all of these foundations the immoral logismoi have their source, their origin. 

3. The Way Into the World of Sin

Sin can be seen from the outside as an ordinary event, as a traffic accident or the like may appear. But before this event occurred, a series of interlinked events had preceded it. For example, when a murder happened, there were thousands of thoughts and plans in the human mind. Until the murder was carried out, the human mind had become a real headquarters of terrorist logismoi.

It is similar with the occurrence of any other sin. In the laboratory that is called the human mind, extensive studies and planning have gone ahead without anyone noticing!

And the beginning was a simple, ordinary Logismos ...

We just let ourselves continue on our way into the land of sin after the onslaught of a simple logismos. 

We are not responsible for a thought or an image simply appearing in our mind. It is not difficult to fend them off then. From the moment, however, when we open the door to this thought and start discussing and thinking about it, the logismos takes its place in us and becomes the ruling logismos.

The Logismos is, basically, the run-up to sin.

Let us observe this process for a while, which for us proceeds similarly to the development and course of disease in the human body. Various interactions take place in the human organism up to the onset of the disease and admission to hospital; it is similar before a sin is consummated. A great struggle, a plethora of interactions, has preceded it in that laboratory called the human mind. And similar to the birth of a child, where a whole series of events have taken place, from conception to the months of pregnancy [up to birth], a complicated mechanism also precedes sin: the conception of logismoi, pregnancy with sin and their birth. 

Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mount Athos is of the opinion that the logismos is the beginning, the center, the root, where the trunk, the branches, i.e. the whole tree of sin has its origin. 

The evil begins with the first logismos and then spreads. When you throw a stone into a well, the wave creates a small circle at the beginning, this small circle creates a larger one, this one an even larger one until the wave breaks on the wall of the well.

So it is with sin. Various mechanisms and processes precede it in succession before it is completed.

4. The Stages of Sin

So we can distinguish three stages on the way to the land of sin:

a) temptation, b) consent, and c) imprisonment. 

How does this mechanism get started? It works as follows: Some malicious logismos (vanity, greed for money, condemnation, etc.) invades the human mind.

Temptation works with the imagination. A scenario is presented that couldn't be more tempting. This makes the challenge [the offer] more attractive and stronger.

Up to this point, the person bears no responsibility. That is the first stage, the temptation, an attack by the enemy or, more simply, the knocking on the door. This situation is natural. It is impossible for a person to exist who is not challenged by the Logismoi. Saint Ephraim the Syrians says that like in the garden the weeds grow naturally alongside the herbs or like the islands are beaten by waves all around, so man too inevitably comes into contact with the challenge of the logismoi.

From now on the stage of willingness to sin begins. The beginning of the fight is the challenge. If a person stays away from it and deals with it without curiosity, then he can save himself and is easily spared the pathetic consequences.

But if he gets involved in a discussion with the malicious Logismos, he has already opened the door for him [10], even if he only knocked before. He becomes friends with it and is then ripe for consenting to sin. Consent is the second stage in carrying out sin.

Man is now committing sin in the innermost and most secret part of his soul, with his self as the main protagonist: he rebukes, blasphemes God, commits fornication, cheats, commits murder and countless crimes and does everything in his mind that the human mind can imagine, [or not, or doesn't want to introduce yourself at all.]

After that, nothing remains but the third stage of sin, namely its active realization by man himself, whose mind had previously become a prisoner of logismos. Man can no longer determine the logismos, but is determined by it. In this way, the Logismos achieves, initially with a simple knock on the door, i.e. with the temptation, by opening it, the consent, and finally victoriously advancing his goal, the execution of sin.

This is the path into sin that begins with a simple logismos.

5. The Source of the Insidious Logismoi in the Passions

Until the person dies, so as long as the soul lives in his body, it is impossible not to be attacked by logismoi.

The root cause of the logismoi is the devil's war. Most of the logismoi come from him. Its aim is to plunge man into sin, be it in thought or through deeds. The holy Makarios of Egypt calls the consent to the insidious logismoi intellectual cheating . That is why he says that "the soul should be kept chaste because it is the bride of Christ".

Most of the time, the logismoi resemble a raging stream, which people often panic about. That is why the demons fight us first with the logismoi and then with real things.

If we give in, they slowly push us into the sin that has been accomplished by deeds.

St. John of Damascus tells us that the main logismoi of evil are eight, namely: gluttony, fornication, greed for money, anger, sadness, indolence, vanity and arrogance.

Another will tell us that man's basic passion, from which all other passions derive, is self-love. It is the exaggerated love and concern for ourselves. And that is the passion of people today. The three main logismoi come from self-love: gluttony, vanity and arrogance. All other logismoi are derived from these three. 

6. Classification of Logismoi

Everything that has been said so far concerned the malicious logismoi. Besides these, however, there are also the good logismoi and the vain or human logismoi. The good logismoi come from God. How can one distinguish one from the other?

One of the brothers asked the abbot Barsanuphios about it and got the following answer: «The logismoi of God bring about inner peace and joy in people. In contrast, the logismoi of the devil are full of unrest and sadness ». 

7. The Logismoi, the Beginning of the Attack Against Us

In general, as described above, the logismoi are the beginning of the devil's attack on us. And the attack begins with the temptation by the logismos, proceeds with our consent, and ends with sin being committed.

That is the course and the development of the logismoi, which come from the devil but also from the people themselves.

8. The Demonic Ruse

Let us now observe how man is attacked by the logismoi or, in other words, which way the demons prefer to attack.

The treacherous malice of the demons, who want to sow a host of filthy logismoi in us, is indescribable. The devil takes advantage of even the most insignificant event in our lives, or the most unlikely event, or finds the strangest way to infect us.

First of all, before the demons push us into sin, they send us logismoi who whisper to us that God is kind to men, and later, after the sin, they bombard us with the thoughts that God is cruel and harsh in order to overthrow us by hopelessness

9. The Logismoi That Blaspheme God

Next they tempt during sacred moments, such as prayer and the Eucharist, in order to defile or whisper blasphemous logismoi against God.

So the abominable one, the devil, loves to curse God during worship and especially during the most holy moment of the divine Eucharist. This means that Satan comes during the mystery of the Eucharist and whispers blasphemous thoughts in our ears, namely that what we receive is not the body and blood of Christ, but only bread and wine, or even offensive and immoral logismoi that we ourselves do not wish to tell.  

St. John of Sinai reports that a monk was attacked by such logismoi for fourteen years. No other logismos is more difficult to confess than this logismos of blasphemy, which can lead people into hopelessness. 

The abbot Pambo also suffered this attack and while he asked God for help, he heard a voice from above: «Pambo should not be sad because of other people's sins [those of the demons], but worry about your deeds».

These blasphemous and immoral logismoi have attacked many great and righteous men, such as St. Meletius the Confessor, but also other confessors and martyrs. This is also confirmed by Saint Peter of Alexandria and the confessor Paphnutius. Saint Peter of Alexandria said: «While I confessed my faith in Christ in court and my body was skinned and burned through various kinds of torture, the demon in me insulted God».

Certainly, as Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain emphasizes, these logismoi come mainly from condemnation, arrogance and envy on the part of demons.

Therefore, the best weapon against them is self-degradation [humility] and self-reproach.

10. The Disguise of the Logismoi

In the text "The Ladder" by St. John of Sinai the following is mentioned:

“Let us pay attention, and we will find that while the spiritual trumpet [the bell] is sounding and the brothers are visibly gathering in the temple, the enemies are gathering invisibly. As soon as we get up to go to church, they encourage us to go back to bed. “Wait”, they say, “until the introductory hymns are over and only then go to church”. Some make us sleepy during prayer, others make us feel hungry, still others encourage us to lean against the wall as if we are tired, and others make us yawn. Others remind us of debts, contracts and interest. And so we leave the church not only without taking anything good and useful with us, but rather with something harmful. And although we are full of indecent thoughts during prayer, they disappear when we have finished the prayer »

The devil knows the usefulness of prayer very well and that is why he tries to defile prayer.

Even if we have defeated the demon in many fights, he sends us under a different form the logismoi of arrogance, who have disguised themselves; they whisper to us that we have actually made progress on the heavenly ladder of virtues, because e.g. all logismoi of fornication have disappeared.

The thought of "victory" is like a snake hiding in the dung heap of arrogance. There is a malicious logismos deep in our hearts.

There are demons who attack our souls when we fall asleep and others who whisper our first thoughts when we wake up from sleep. The devil never misses an opportunity to launch an attack on us.

Sometimes he sends us logismoi against our spiritual father and sometimes, after confession, he attacks us with memories of our previous sins to drive us into hopelessness. And sometimes he first plunges us into sin and then he calls us through logismoi to teach sin to others and to recommend it to others. These are generally the logismoi that the devil creates.

Let us now consider the logismoi that man himself produces.

The spirit of man craves the flesh. It's like a dog prowling around the butcher shop to snatch a piece of meat, or an eater who enjoys talking about the food all the time. So it is with the mind of man. He often feeds on indecent and dirty thoughts.

A monk who owns nothing and is dispossessed (basically every Christian as well) has no interference from what he possesses during prayer. Such thoughts do not occur to him during prayer. A property lover, however, has material images and logismoi of material things during prayer.

The person who is uncontrolled, i.e. the slave of his belly, has thoughts and logismoi full of confused illusions. St. John of Sinai gives us an example of this: just as a pile of rubbish gives birth to worms, so the overabundance of food gives birth to falls, shameful logismoi, and shameless dreams. Gluttony is to indecent logismoi what oil is to fire.

That is why he put the speech about chastity in his writing "Die Himmelsleiter", Greek the "Ladder", after the speech about gluttony: "Because I think," he writes, "that gluttony is the mother of fornication".

So where do the logismoi of fornication come from? If a person enjoys prosperity in his life and has all the conveniences and does not toughen himself up, then it is natural that this person has logismoi of fornication, which inevitably end in indecent acts at some point. On the other hand, if a person does not have his senses under control and he sees someone or hears someone doing something shameful, it is as if he himself had opened the door to the dirty logismoi. Of course, human nature, which tends towards such logismoi, also helps.

In addition, disobedience to the promises of God gives birth to a “deposit of logismoi”, namely, the human mind becomes a depository of malicious logismoi. Disobedience to our spiritual father gives birth to the same malicious logismoi.

Often man's curiosity to explore God's secrets creates blasphemous logismoi such as that God is unjust and partial, that some people have received visions and miracles and others nothing.

11. Combinations of Logismoi

There are also logismoi that come from both man and the devil. This is a combination of logismoi.

"I saw," says St. John of Sinai, "some who ate constantly with pleasure but had no logismos of voraciousness. And others who were constantly in the company of women, but at that moment had no unchaste logismos. But if they were in peace and security in their cell, the disaster would be there. Nature has driven them to eat and drink with pleasure and to look extravagantly. Satan took advantage of this and threw them into sin."

These are generally the logismoi that come from both man and the devil.
There are stages in this fight. The challenge, consent, and captivity.

The challenge begins with a simple logismos or with a picture. If the person agrees, this is consent. The conversation with the logismos begins. From this point in time, people begin to take responsibility for themselves. The consent is followed by the desire to realize the order of the logismos. In the end, man is subjugated and becomes captive to passion.

12. The Consequences of the Logismoi 

When the influence of a logismos is constantly present in us, we become servants of the struggle. Stimulation is man's adherence to created things and his addiction to possess only such. Thus, the human mind is detached from eternal nourishment. And when man has finally moved away from God, he becomes like a wild animal or a demon or one controlled by others, which can be observed today in our consumer society. Man's thoughts cling solely to earthly things and are turned away from heaven. The result is animal brutality and the technology that should act as a means is the new cult figure, has become a deity.

Man becomes rampant. He cannot control himself. If a person does not fight against his logismoi, he becomes a slave to sin. "If one does not defend oneself spiritually against sin, one commits it physically".

The logismoi make us rot and destroy us, creating problems in our interpersonal relationships as well.

The logismoi contaminate, poison and embitter our soul. «This is how evil fights people. And with these arrows it poisons every soul », says St. Hesychios.

By accepting the logismoi, the devil gains dominion over us and is thus able to drive people even to suicide, since people are not able to resist them on their own.

Filthy logismoi demonize the soul, in other words, they plunge it into the depths. 

The one who is constantly bothered by logismoi and only thinks of physical well-being and pleasure shows that he is far from the Holy Spirit.

You lose your boldness towards God. If the mind enters into partnership with dirty and harmful logismoi, it loses its boldness towards God. God cannot enter into fellowship with a man whose mind is constantly poisoned by shameful and evil logismoi; just as one is loathed by an earthly superior if one forms partnerships with his enemies.

"The dirty logismoi separate God from man". God does not reveal his secrets to man obsessed with nefarious logismoi.

Because the logismoi separate God and man, physical ailments also develop. Stress, fear, insecurity and other physical ailments can have their origin in the logismoi. Doctors are also aware of this and advise us not to think about certain things and not to worry so much.

A logismos can keep a person awake all night. Because of this, they can confuse him and ruin his nerves. The abbot Theodor Studites says: "A logismos comes and confuses me".

In a nutshell, these are the effects of malicious logismoi.

But we also have to consider the coping strategies of the logismoi, which mainly come from the devil.

13. Coping with the Logismoi

How can someone get rid of the logismoi?

The saints and the Fathers of our Church have shown us many ways to combat logismoi.

St. John Chrysostom advises us never to speak them out, but rather to choke them with silence. If wild animals or reptiles fall into a pit and still find a way out, they become even more dangerous and wild. But if they don't find a way out and stay trapped, they perish.

The same thing happens with the dirty logismoi. If they find a way out in the form of words, they light the inner fire through the mouth [the vehicle of the words]. But if they are locked in by the silence, they become emaciated, quickly dissolve and disappear.

"How can I do evil before God?" (Gen. 39, 9). While we get upset by some insane logismos, we should remember that one cannot hide even the smallest and most absurd thoughts from God.

The study of God's law, remembering the future [of the certainty of death, of the new world of Christ] and of what God has done for us diminish the malicious logismoi and so they find no place in us.

Confession of the Logismoi. Just as a snake comes out of its hole and quickly disappears, so too do the malicious logismoi when they have been confessed. We should know that nothing brings so much joy to the demons as the concealment of the logismoi.

The humiliation of the soul and the physical effort “at any time and in any place and in any situation” helps people to have less shameful logismoi.

"Make sure that you free yourself from the passions and immediately you will drive the logismoi out of your mind," emphasizes St. Maximos the Confessor.

Namely: In order to get rid of fornication, one has to exercise physically and fast; to get rid of anger and grief, one must despise fame and honor; one should not be resentful but pray for the one who offended us.

We cannot prevent the logismoi from coming, but we can refuse to consent to them. We cannot prevent the ravens from flying over our heads, but we can prevent them from building nests on our heads.

Saint Basil said: “In order to be able to cope with these attacks, we must be extremely vigilant, just as the wrestler evades the opponent with great caution and physical flexibility. But we leave the end of the fight and the escape from the arrows to help from above through prayer and trust.

Even if the evil enemy makes deceitful and evil fantasies to us during the prayer, we should not interrupt the prayer. The soul should not doubt and not reproach itself, that it is responsible for these evil logismoi, anymore than for the stories of a travelling entertainer. On the contrary, she should remember that these thoughts are due to the insolent inventor of wickedness, she should prostrate herself even more intensely and implore God to destroy the evil partition of insane thoughts so that she can approach God without hindrance.

But if the shameful effect of the logismoi becomes more intense because of the insolence of the enemy, we must not lose courage, we must not give up the fight and must be patient until God recognizes our patience and enlightens us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. This grace compels the enemy to flee, fills our spirits with the divine light, so that the spirit [mind] worships God in unclouded peace and happiness ».

In general, the fathers have three means of overcoming the shameful logismoi:
a) prayer, b) contradiction c) contempt.

a) Prayer. It is impossible for the inexperienced person to drive out the logismoi on his own. This is a mark of the experienced man.

The spiritual prayer, performed as a monologue: "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" is the strongest weapon in the fight against logismoi. «Fight the opponents in the name of Jesus; there is no stronger weapon on earth or in heaven », emphasizes St. John of Sinai.

«The most gentle name of Jesus, uttered continuously, with emotion, with hope and faith deep in the heart, makes all malicious logismoi fall asleep and all good and spiritual logismoi awaken. Where earlier, as the Lord says, evil thoughts, murders and cheating came from the heart (Mat. 15, 19), from there later come logismoi of virtue and words of wisdom and grace ».

b) Contradiction. Only prayer can help the innocent. All those who can fight should use the contradiction that is able to silence the demons. In this way our Lord has conquered the three great temptations which the devil has presented him. He overcame lust with the words: "Man does not live on bread alone"; lust for fame with: "You shall not challenge the Lord your God" and greed with: "You are to worship the Lord your God alone and serve him alone (Matt. 4, 10). "

The holy martyr Peter of Damascus reports the following:

«If the demons whisper a logismos of arrogance, you should think of the shameful logismoi that they whispered to you at the time, so that you become humble. If they whisper nefarious logismoi, you should think of the arrogant logismoi that they whispered before so that you can defeat them in this way. So you do not become discouraged by the damaging logismoi on the one hand, and not arrogant by the good logismoi on the other ».

A wise, old monk reacted to the logismoi of arrogance in the following way: "Old man," he said to himself, "remember your earlier fornication"; then the logismos was gone.

There are situations in which, despite recruiting all of his mental powers, all good logismoi, someone cannot drive out a bad logismos. What is the cause? “Because we allow ourselves to judge our neighbor first”. As we judge our brother, our prayer becomes weak.

Sometimes we behave foolishly and the malicious logismoi gain influence over us again.

Often, however, we have no strength to fight the logismoi and the consequences are considerable mental wounds, from which it is difficult to recover even after a long period of time.

Therefore it is better to find refuge in the power of prayer and tears, because a) the soul does not always have the same power, b) the devil has millennia of experience as opposed to our experience which is very limited. The consequence of this, combined with shameful fantasies, is our defeat and vulnerability, because our minds are again polluted with shameful logismoi and c) because prayer drives away arrogance and proves the humility of those who turn to God during the attack of logismoi turns and “sees himself as incompetent, humble and weak in battle; But Jesus Christ recognizes as the only mighty and strong in battle because He has said to us: "Have courage, I have conquered the world" (John 16:33), namely the passions, the logismoi and the devil.

c) Contempt and disdain. "When we deal with the logismoi that the enemy sends us, we never do anything good, because he fights it."

The disdain and contempt of the logismoi is the most powerful weapon and the strongest blow against the devil.

We should always look at his logismoi like insects, like the barking of a bait, like mosquitoes, in the worst case like the noise of an airplane, simply as nothing, because: a) we believe in the power of our Lord General Jesus Christ and b) we believe that after the crucifixion, death and resurrection of our Lord, the devil has no power over us, for he remains powerless and weak as the psalmist says: "The sword of the enemy is destroyed in the end" (Ps. 9, 6).
There is no greater victory over the demons and a greater shame for them than contempt, because he who has come to this point is equipped with the grace of God and can no longer be grasped by logismoi and demons.

These are the three ways to combat those logismoi that come mainly from the devil.

In addition to this, the memory of the certainty of death can be said to be a very powerful tool for breaking logismoi. It causes pain because of our sins and protects our mind from the logismoi. The one who sees every day as if he were the last, limits the harmful logismoi to a very large extent.

At the dinner table we should remember the logismoi of death so that we avoid voraciousness.

Let us mentally grind the image of our graves so that we can erase our lack of emotion!

Father Silouan, [Lebentisk 1892-1938] the last official saint of the Holy Mountain said: "Keep in mind the memory of Hades and do not despair". In this way there is no logismos in you.

How can we escape this everyday torment, as Saint Theodor Studites called the logismoi?

Let us follow the tactics of St. John the Cripple, who tried all possibilities. This great fighter of the spirit recommends the following:

«I am like a person who sits under a large tree and suddenly sees a lot of beasts and reptiles coming straight at him. Since he has little strength to defend himself, he quickly climbs the tree and saves himself. So do I. I sit in my monastery cell and see the malicious logismoi coming straight at me. Then I climb the tree of life, to my God, with prayer and save myself from the enemy ».

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