The Mind’s Long Journey to the Holy Trinity: The Ad Monachos of Evagrius Ponticus (4th cent. / 1993)

Jeremy Driscoll’s translation and commentary on the Ad Monachos is extremely helpful for understanding Evagrius’s teachings, both herein and elsewhere. Evagrius’s proverbs are sandwiched between an introductory essay that explains Evagrius’s philosophical presuppositions and a commentary on the text of the proverbs themselves.

The introduction is helpful because it identifies many of the themes that appear in Evagrius’s works: his reliance on the tradition of the desert; his philosophy of rational beings as minds in souls and bodies; the original creation of the mind; reasons for the created order; the three parts of the soul—rational, irascible, and concupiscible; spiritual life divided between discipline (praktiké) and knowledge; the eight logismoí; and the levels of knowledge—contemplation of corporeals and incorporeals and the contemplation of God. Each of these is treated well by Driscoll, who has helped me understand Evagrius’s use of certain words, especially “mind,” “body,” “soul,” “praktiké,” and “knowledge.” His use of the latter, knowledge (gnosis), is surely why he is sometimes, mistakenly, referred to in history as a heretic. Driscoll demonstrates how Evagrius is orthodox from beginning to end, not least because Christ—the second person of the Trinity—is central to all parts of life for Evagrius.

The commentary is practical for helping to open up Evagrius’s proverbs as well as for inspiring further reflection upon the proverbs. Discroll identifies “chains” in the proverbs, which reveal a carefully laid out text (as opposed to it being haphazard). The proverbs, according to Driscoll, begin with praktiké and move toward knowledge, ultimately, of the Trinity. The virtues of prudence and gentleness are important in these proverbs, as they “surround knowledge.”

The proverbs themselves are interesting, and I hope to spend more time with them. Driscoll has helped prepared me well through his excellent introduction and commentary.

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