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William Harmless

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300383

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300383.001.0001

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Mystic as Desert Calligrapher: Evagrius Ponticus

Mystic as Desert Calligrapher: Evagrius Ponticus

(p.135) 7 Mystic as Desert Calligrapher: Evagrius Ponticus

S.J. William Harmless

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the pioneers of Christian mysticism, the fourth-century desert fathers of Egypt. These early monks forged techniques of prayer and asceticism, of discipleship and spiritual direction, that have remained central to Christianity ever since. Intellectuals helped record and systematize this early mystical spirituality. The most important — but still little known — is Evagrius Ponticus (345–399). He sought to map out the soul's journey to God and is best known for his formulation and analysis of the seven deadly sins. His disciple, John Cassian (c.360–c.435), ended up settling in southern France after long experience in the monasteries of Egypt. Writing in Latin, he introduced the spirituality of Evagrius and the desert fathers to Western Christianity. Evagrius helped pioneer Christian mysticism, advocating unceasing prayer, and was among the first to plot milestones in the soul's journey to God.

Keywords:   Evagrius Ponticus, desert fathers, John Cassian, soul's journey, Christian mysticism, pure prayer

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