Evagrius speaks of eight generic thoughts, gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vanity and pride. He refers to them as Logismoi (pronounced lo-yeez-mee), obsessive thoughts that can develop a life of their own, that consume us and literally posses us. These basic thoughts can be recognised as having developed into the seven deadly sins, but Evagrius talks of them as something to overcome in order to attain apathia. Asceticism and self-denial have long been tenants of the monastic tradition in many religions, and are seen as ways to spiritual enlightenment. Once the Logismoi can be controlled you have control over your entire life.
This project was a journey of self discovery and an exploration of the human will and how these Logismoi can be dealt with. The project consisted of denying myself food (our most basic urge) for a period of three months. I started by reducing my calorie intake to approx 1000 calories a day, whilst maintaining a rigorous exercise regime. After 6 weeks I strained the muscles in my legs and could no longer continue to exercise, and at this point I switched to a more intense fasting routine. I reduce my calorie intake to 400 calories a day with bouts of complete fasting for two to three days at a time. By the end of three months I had lost 40lbs and could barely stand from the weakness.
These photographs, taken on the penultimate day of my fasting try in some way to express the feeling of being in a state of starvation. Interestingly as Evagrius intimates, as the experiment continued, slowly the other Logismoi diminished and vanished leaving only an intense concentration on food. All other feeling had left me and I could think of nothing but food. As a path to spirituality, self-denial is clearly an easy step, as it allows one to concentrate on what is really important in your life, once all other considerations are passed over. When you are starving, nothing matters except food. This puts your mind in a place of clarity and focus that it is hard to find in today’s modern world.
All images and text © Steven Barritt
By Steven Barritt