Sunday, June 06, 2010

Everybody Loves Evagrius

I know you are worried because you haven't heard much from me lately on the subject of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I'm still reading it, so put your mind at ease! I'm all the way up to the year 1100, so there. Oh yeah! We're in the quadruple digit years now, baby! Feels like a milestone. I have a feeling it's smooth sailing for Christianity from here on out. But let's turn back the clock a little bit, just for a minute. One of the most captivating characters I have encountered in the book is Evagrius, a fourth-century Egyptian monk. Well, he was born in Pontus, wherever that is, but he moved to Egypt, where all the best monk action was happening. It's like when bands used to move to Austin, I guess. I like him so much - from MacCulloch's description - that I special-ordered a volume of his works (the one edited by Augustine Casiday, recommended in a MacCulloch footnote), which I picked up yesterday from Square Books. And it struck me as I stared at the cover that his name seemed oddly familiar to me, from somewhere else. Then I remembered that Theresa's kind and wise mentor at Emory University, Dr. Kevin Corrigan, had signed one of his books for us a while back, and sure enough, when I got it out and looked at the title, what do you think I saw? EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: MIND, SOUL AND BODY IN THE FOURTH CENTURY. Yeah! Now I've got the Evagrius and somebody nice to explain the Evagrius! It's going to be all Evagrius all the time around here! Party! ("Hey, Pendarvis, what's with the person in the tiger mask standing in front of the aquarium? Have you gone back to random illustrations again?" No, but thanks for the question! For some reason, that's one of the things that popped up when I did a "Google Image Search" for Evagrius Ponticus.) I read FRANNY AND ZOOEY right after Salinger passed away, and I believe that some of the theories and practices of Evagrius are highly influential on an important subplot of that book, but I do not know whether Salinger got them from Evagrius directly or if his inspiration comes from some later follower (in the novel, they are attributed to "some Russian peasant" who "never gives his name... He just tells you he's a peasant and that he's thirty-three years old and that he's got a withered arm.")