The power of evil spirits over man according to John Cassian

Arkadiusz Nocoń

Università Pontificia Salesiana a Roma , Italy


Much of the literary activity of John Cassian, that supreme master of the spiri­tual life, concentrates on the struggle with the devil, the discernment of his strate­gies, and the search for effective defense mechanisms against his attacks. The question of the power of evil spirits over man also arises. Generally, Cassian’s teaching on this subject of the power of spirits over man strikes a positive note: when faced with diabolic attacks and temptations, man enjoys not only the possi­bility of success but even the possibility of advantage: God Himself, the merciful judge (Collationes Patrum VII 20) watches over man’s struggles to overcome diabolic attacks and in that struggle He favours man. Obviously, since we are talk­ing of a continuous struggle, evil spirits can attempt to, and sometimes even do demonize man – but not because of their desire so to do but because of God will (evil spirits may not do with man as they please but only what God permits them to do). The power of evil spirits over man is therefore limited: a) by the concession of God; and b) by man’s will which possesses „both the freedom of acquiescing to temptation and of repulsing it” (Collationes Patrum VII 8). The general te­nor of Cassian’s teaching, therefore, is permeated by a positivism and is free of any form of fatalism or obsession on matters of demonology, while at the same time conscious of the evil that demonic spirits can exert on man’s body and spirit (soul). He continues to hold that spiritual evil, or vice, is something much more dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. Quoting St. Paul, Cassian assures us that definitive victory belongs to Christ and to his followers: when Christ „hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1Cor 15, 24), at that moment, all those who have been held captive by these „dominions”, „authorities” and „powers” will be freed from all subjugation (Collationes Patrum VIII 14).


Satan, demonology, evil spirits, power of evil spirits, struggle against demons, diabolic possession, capital sin and vices

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Nocoń, A. (2013). The power of evil spirits over man according to John Cassian. Vox Patrum, 59, 197–208.

Arkadiusz Nocoń 
Università Pontificia Salesiana a Roma


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