The power of evil spirits over man according to John Cassian
Arkadiusz NocońUniversità 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).
Keywords:Satan, demonology, evil spirits, power of evil spirits, struggle against demons, diabolic possession, capital sin and vices
Chadwick O., John Cassian, Cambridge 1968
Hoch A., Zur Heimat des Johannes Cassianus, ThQ 82 (1990) 43-69
Joannes Cassianus, Collationes Patrum XXIV, PL 49, ed. M. Petschenig, CSEL 13, Wien 1886
Joannes Cassianus, De institutis coenobiorum et De octo principalium vitiorum remediis libri XII, ed. A. Gazaeus, PL 49, ed. M. Petschenig, CSEL 17, Wien 1888
Lavatori R., Satana un caso serio. Studio di demonologia cristiana, Bologna 1996
Marrou H.I., La patrie de Jean Cassien, OCP 13 (1947) 588-596
Ménager A., La patrie de Cassien, „Échos d’Orient” 21 (1921) 330-358
Naumowicz J., Drabina zmagań Jana Klimaka, ŻD 50 (2007) 30-37
Olphe-Galliard M., Cassien, DSp II 214
Osek E., Szatan – duch powietrza w nauce Bazylego Wielkiego, VoxP 21 (2001) t. 40- 41, 209-217
Otto R., Świętość. Elementy irracjonalne w pojęciu bóstwa i ich stosunek do elementów racjonalnych, tłum. B. Kupis, Warszawa 1999
Schwartz E., Lebensdaten Cassians, ZNW 38 (1939) 1-11
Stewart C., Kasjan Mnich, tłum. T. Lubowiecka, ŹM 34, Kraków 2004
Wiśniewski R., Szatan i jego słudzy. Rola diabła i demonów w łacińskiej literaturze hagiograficznej IV-V wieku. Chrześcijaństwo u schyłku starożytności. Studia źródłoznawcze, red. T. Derda – E. Wipszycka, IV, Kraków 2003
Zatorski W., Osiem duchów zła. Nauka Ewagriusza z Pontu o namiętnych myślach, Kraków 2012
Zelzer K., „Cassianus natione Scytha”, ein Südgallier, „Wiener Studien” 104 (1991) 161-168
Pursuant to the Act on Copyright and Related Rights of February 4, 1994, the Author of the publication grants the Publisher of the journal "Vox Patrum" a non-exclusive and free license to use the Work submitted for publication for an indefinite period of time on an unlimited territory in the following fields of use:
a. In the field of recording and reproducing the work - producing copies of the work using a specific technique, including printing, reprographic, magnetic recording and digital technology;
b. Within the scope of trading in the original or copies on which the work has been recorded - marketing, lending or renting the original or copies;
c. In the scope of disseminating the work in a manner other than specified in point b - public performance, exhibition, display, reproduction, broadcasting and rebroadcasting, as well as making the work available to the public, so that everyone can have access to it at a place and time chosen by them.
Moreover, the Author allows the Publisher free of charge to use and dispose of the compilations of the Works.
The publisher may grant sub-licenses.
Third parties may use the Works and other materials containing or based on the Works in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (also known as CC-BY-NC 4.0) license pattern.