Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota of Greek-American parents, Dr. Boosalis grew up at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. Upon graduation from Seminary, he served his home parish as a lay assistant and youth director under the tutelage of his life-long parish priest, Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris. He earned his doctoral degree in Greece under the direction of Prof. Georgios Mantzaridis. His dissertation provides a systematic presentation of the teaching of St. Silouan of Mount Athos on Orthodox spiritual life, highlighting its relevance for today. Dr. Boosalis has been teaching dogmatic theology as a full time faculty member at St. Tikhon’s since the Fall of 1992, when he organized, developed and implemented a new curriculum for the entire sequence of dogmatic courses in the Master of Divinity degree program. He serves the Seminary as the Chairman of the Department of Theology and Spirituality and is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Development Committee. He is the author of four books, editor of three more, and is currently working on a textbook. Since the Summer of 2002, Dr. Boosalis has been leading a group of St. Tikhon’s seminarians on an annual pilgrimage to Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece. In the summer of 2009, Dr. Boosalis participated in a teaching mission to Tanzania in East Africa, conducted under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). In the summer of 2011, Dr. Boosalis participated in a teaching mission to Turkana, Kenya also conducted under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).
Logismoi, or these ‘evil thoughts’, may be manipulated to stir up anxiety and anger aimed against those people with whom we are closest. This often includes friends, relatives, fellow members of a parish community, as well as those with whom we are sacramentally linked or have spiritual bonds—even our own clergy and others who work for the Church. Whether well founded or not—and usually they are not—these logismoi can end up as passions of extreme anger or even hatred directed towards these innocent ‘victims’ of ours.
Every one of us knows the reality of contending against the wide variety of these intruding thoughts. They continually bombard us throughout the day. This warfare wages throughout our entire lifetime; indeed, it is a life-long struggle. St. Silouan emphasizes this point quite often. He writes, for example, that “The soul’s war with the enemy continues until death.”
Elsewhere he stresses that “Our battle rages every day, every hour.” He also highlights the severity of the matter. In common military warfare, there is the possibility that the human body may be wounded or die. In spiritual warfare, however, there is even more danger, since it is the human soul that may perish.
For those of us committed to Christ, the spiritual struggle cannot be avoided. This holds true regardless of our level of spiritual progress. In fact, the battle against evil thoughts intensifies the further we advance spiritually. In this way, we mature and participate more fully in the life in Christ.
These thoughts or logismoi will come and go, and this is unavoidable. We cannot control their coming, but we can control their expulsion. It is up to us whether or not we allow them to stay. St. John Cassian draws attention to this particular point. He writes, “It is impossible for the mind not to be troubled by these thoughts. But if we exert ourselves, it is within our power either to accept them and give them our attention, or to expel them. Their coming is not within our power to control, but their expulsion is.”
St. Silouan likewise writes, “Just as people go in and out of a house, so may thoughts proceeding from devils come and go again, if you do not accept them.” It is interesting to find how this same idea is expressed by another contemporary spiritual elder of Mount Athos, the late Elder Paisios. He used to liken logismoi to airplanes, flying by overhead in the air. If you don’t pay them any attention, they simply fly away. However, he added, we must be careful not to build an airport, within our heart, so that these ‘logismoi’ can land and take up residence within us.
The trickery and deception of the enemy must never be underestimated. He is most clever in his never-ending attempt to sugar-coat the initial encounter of a logismos, presenting it as harmless or even as something productive and beneficial. These thoughts or imaginations may even appear at first as fresh spiritual insight that shine light on the truth about someone, or on someone’s words or actions—or even the lack thereof.
By entertaining these evil logismoi and allowing them to grow and progress, we expose ourselves to a host of disastrous consequences that lead to sin and separation from God. One of the goals of spiritual life entails that we must always be attentive and watchful in order to try to catch the logismos before it develops and becomes too difficult to control.
If we are heedless, we find ourselves responding to these demonic suggestions. This culminates not only in our enslavement to them, but also in our ‘identifying’ with them. Not only do we entertain logismoi, but we come to be influenced by them. Thus, we are easily seduced, and slowly, we find ourselves under their thought-control.
—TO BE CONTINUED—
Read the entire St. Silouan series by Dr. Harry Boosalis:
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