This paper reconstructs from the literary evidence of eastern monasticism the problems and challenges that late antique monks faced in their effort to cultivate a continual attentiveness (προσοχή, νῆψις). Drawing on cognitive research of attention, I argue that misuses of the spiritual method of attentiveness could serve as the source of these problems. While the demonological psychology of the Egyptian desert ascribes this paradoxical phenomenon to the sinister influence of demons, research on attention helps us recognize that it was the very risks inherent in the effort to train attention that were ascribed to demonic machinations. Cognitive research underscores the sophistication of monastic psychology cum demonology, which was able to fit the demons into an explanation of human cognition.


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pp. 199-227
Launched on MUSE
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