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Allegory of the Acedia with a stubborn donkey ( Comburg , 1715)

Acedia (Latinized from Greek  ἀκηδία (or ἀκήδεια) "carelessness", "negligence", "not wanting to do" from κῆδος kēdos "worry") is an expression of Christian spirituality and describes an attitude that "turns against worry, effort or effort "And reacts to it" with aversion, disgust or disgust ". The Catechism of the Catholic Church equates the acedia with spiritual indolence and compares it to what is now called depression .


Possible German synonyms for this would be disgust, boredom, indolence, discouragement, languor, aversion, melancholy - but of all these, the translation as “weariness” appears to be the most appropriate, since all other meanings resonate in it (cf. Cassian and Bunge).

The desert father Evagrios Pontikos equated the acedia with the ancient idea of ​​the midday demon (cf. Psalm 91.6: "Plague that rages at midday"). The hermits in the desert were exposed to heat, hunger, thirst, loneliness and monotony, and attributed their distress to this "demon". In his work "Praktikos" Evagrios writes about it:

“The demon of weariness, also known as the 'midday demon', is the most oppressive of all demons. He presses the monk around the fourth hour (10 a.m.) in the morning and surrounds his soul until about the eighth hour (2 p.m.). (Pr 12) "

In other words it is the vice of spiritual indolence, a slackening of the soul, the stagnation of all things, a dead end in physical and psychological terms, and especially with the monk a reluctant "closeness to God, who otherwise fills one with life".

According to Evagrios, their importance is great, since he calls them the greatest of all vices and obstacles.

According to theological teaching, the acedia is one of the seven (according to another tradition: eight) root sins or main vices . It can become a grave sin if it neglects important obligations.

The essence of acedia

According to the desert father Evagrios, this conglomerate of oppressive negative moods is caused by an interweaving of desire and anger. In terms of the ability to react, the human being has two “directions of movement”, attachment and aversion, or desire and anger. If the case arises that these two are intertwined (that is, there is a knot of desire and anger), this leads to a holistic paralysis in the person concerned, which has its emotional counterpart in the forms of sadness and indolence mentioned above , Weariness etc. has. Evagrios writes:

“Weariness is a simultaneous, long-lasting impulse of anger and desire, whereby the former is angry about what is available, but the latter longs for what is not there.

Through the thoughts the demons fight us, sometimes stimulating desire, sometimes anger, and then again at the same time anger and desire, which creates the so-called complex thought.

While the other demons only touch a part of the soul, the midday demon surrounds the whole soul and suffocates the intellect. (Pr 36) "

In addition to the paralysis of the person by the “complex thought”, the time factor, i.e. a long-lasting distress, as well as the darkening of the intellect ( cf. Greek nous ), which thus becomes useless for a deeper knowledge of oneself, is characteristic. The acedia is therefore described as a highly irrational phenomenon.

Typical signs

"Melancholy" by Domenico Fetti

The six "daughters of Acedia" are, according to Gregorius, with the doctor of the church Thomas Aquinas : malice, rebellion / resentment, faint-heartedness, despair, dull indifference to the commandments and regulations, wandering of the spirit in the direction of the unlawful.

With reference to Evagrios, Bunge lists various acedic forms. The first and most certain sign is therefore an inner restlessness , which z. B. expresses in the fact that the life partner, the company of our friends, the learned job or the traditional place of residence are seen as the apparent cause of great dissatisfaction. This also gives rise to the urge to travel as an old anti-melancholy.

According to Bunge, the following signs can also be found:

  • Distraction and distraction (the urge so characteristic of acedia not only for variety in general, but especially for human society)
  • The fear of physical illness
  • Other people are made responsible for their own unhappiness (deception and self-deception lead people astray because the true character of their depression has remained hidden to them. Evagrios calls "falling in love" as the root of all evil)
  • Feigned works of virtue (an often charitable activism to hide one's inner stasis and one's own emptiness)
  • Sulleness and minimalism in spiritual practice
  • Doubts about the authenticity of one's calling or way of life

Theologically, the attitude of the acedia is often understood to mean that what God demands of you is too much for you. From an anthropological point of view, it is captured by Josef Pieper in such a way that "man denies himself the claim that is given with his own dignity [...] that man ultimately does not agree to his own being".

Due to the personally felt mercilessness and heaviness, but especially also due to the ability to last a long time, the acedia can bring a person to despair. The possibility of suicide as an apparent liberation from the inner emptiness and hopelessness is hinted at and of course rejected by Evagrios Pontikos.

Way out

In order to resolve this inner entanglement, according to Evagrios, a virtuous behavior in thinking and doing forms the basis with regard to the passions, as well as persistent self-awareness. In the words of the desert father:

“[If someone] wants to experience the wild demons and gain insight into their skills, then watch their [tempting] thoughts, their fading, their addictions, their emergence according to the circumstances, which demon produces what, which follows the other, and which does not follow it. (Pr 50)

Knowing these things is necessary so that when the thoughts begin to stimulate their respective concerns, even before we have gone too far out of our calmness, we can argue something against them and be clear about the demon present. Thus, with God's help, we will willingly advance, astonish them, and force them to flee from us. (Pr 43)

Do not give in to the thought of anger by arguing in your head with the one who offended you, nor that of fornication by constantly indulging in lustful fantasies. Because one darkens the soul, the other kindles the fire of passion in it. But both sully the intellect. (Pr 23) "

Accordingly, careful introspection, which is now called mindfulness , is necessary in order to become aware of the inner emotional mechanisms. The importance of persevering in this awareness is also pointed out. Josef Pieper writes about it: "The temptation to acedia and to despair can only be overcome by the wakeful resistance of the attentive penetrating gaze." The desert father describes the persistent and monastic inner attitude towards the dissolution of the acedic knot as follows:

“Not to be afraid of the enemy and to endure willingly in tribulations is the work of courage and patience. (Pr 89)

In the time of temptation we must not give up our cell, no matter what plausible pretext we may invent; we should remain in it and persistently and bravely resist all attackers, but especially the demon of weariness, which oppresses us most and puts the soul to a great extent. (Pr 28) "

Finally, Evagrios points out the positive effects that await one after having emerged victorious from the inner struggle:

“This demon is no longer immediately followed by anyone else. But after its struggle the soul comes into a peaceful state and an inexpressible joy comes to it. (Pr 12) "


Web links

Commons : Acedia  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Johannes Baptist Lotz: Acedia. In: Christian Schütz (Ed.): Practical Lexicon of Spirituality. Herder, Freiburg 1992, ISBN 3-451-22614-6 , p. 9.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2094 and No. 2733
  3. Cassian calls the acedia "weariness" or "fear of the heart", in: Johannes Cassian, Tension of the soul. Instruction in Christian Life I, Eds. Gertrude and Thomas Sartory, Freiburg 1981, p.82f
  4. Gabriel Bunge, Akedia, p. 47
  5. All quotations from the Praktikos (Pr): Own translation from English according to Luke Dysinger ( Memento of the original from April 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. can be viewed in this compilation @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ Rüdiger Safranski : Time. What she does to us and what we make of her. Hanser, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-446-23653-0 , p. 28.
  7. ^ Anton Rotzetter: Acedia . In: Ders .: Lexicon of Christian Spirituality. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-16689-3 , p. 13.
  8. Gabriel Bunge, Akedia, p. 57 / p. 60
  9. Gabriel Bunge, Akedia, p. 60
  10. Summa theologica IIa-IIæ q. 35 art. 4 ad 2.
  11. So the quote; the form used by St. Thomas himself below in his discussion of the Gregorius passage (ib. ad 3) is evagatio mentis , debauchery of the spirit.
  12. Gabriel Bunge, Akedia, p. 71ff
  13. Josef Pieper: Leisure and cult. Kösel, Munich 1948, p. 48.
  14. Gabriel Bunge, Akedia, p. 91
  15. Josef Pieper, Werke, Vol. IV, 282