Abstract

John Chrysostom’s “Exhortatory treatise to the ascetic Stageirios, being harassed by a demon” challenges its recipient’s diagnosis of his own spiritual disorder. According to Chrysostom, the fundamental problem for Stageirios is not the demon but the athumia (despondency or depression) that results. Furthermore, Chrysostom argues, this despondency is not directly caused, nor even warranted, by the demonic attacks. It is, rather, a product of the monk’s attendance to his doxa (repute), as well as to that of his family. In consequence, the therapy that Chrysostom recommends is not exorcism of the demon but excision of the false beliefs and earthly desires that foster athumia. This study teases apart the psychosomatic disorders variously recognized and dismissed in this letter as diseases of the soul—demonic attacks, epilepsy, athumia—and situates them within the context of contemporaneous medical and philosophical traditions. In so doing, it suggests how Chrysostom both absorbs and subverts the metaphor—traditional within Greco-Roman philosophy, and prevalent in late antique Christianity—of emotions and desires as sicknesses of the soul.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1942-1273
Print ISSN
1939-6716
Pages
pp. 352-367
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-23
Open Access
No
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