The Demon of Noonday, also know as accidie, is a spiritual and psychological phenomenon identified by early Christian mystics who sought solitude in the Egyptian desert. They commonly experienced a sense of emptiness, hopelessness and torpor which they realised was a normal part of our human condition when we seek to deepen our spiritual life. It is a moment that provokes the question, ‘What is the point?’.
This painting explores that experience and draws on a poem by my friend Ian Adams, who’s work I highly recommend, about one of those ancient desert mystics called Abba Joseph:
Abba Joseph in the Desert
Stumbling through a scorched stream-bed
a black-clad figure, spirit-led
descends once more into arid accidie
where dreams fall away from unsteady feet
thoughts spike the soul’s soft skin
and promises circle those who break them.
The Abba stops. Stands, arms outstretched.
In the wind-silence of the desert,
ever higher in the sky the sun’s
searing focus is now on this one man
consumed by the fire – a lens
through whom you too may burst into flame.
Ian Adams from ‘Unfurling’ (Canterbury Press)
Noonday Demon Oil on canvas 92cmx115cm
The painting is on display in the “What is the Point?” exhibition until 15th October at the Strand Gallery, London
For enquiries about the painting email email@example.com
2 thoughts on “Noonday Demon”
Thanks for a beautiful painting, poem and reflection. There may also be a sundown demon. Caregivers have noticed a phenomenon called “sundowning,” when patients feel worse or have more memory problems at sundown.
Thanks for reminding me of the noonday demon. When I saw the painting I was still thinking about the impending British Forces action that is being planned in Syria and the images of the single men refugees coming on to the Greek island of Lesbos that I had been watching the night before. I saw the young men in the painting and the outstretched arm on fire in that context and immediately associated them with the despair and culpability I and others feel in this situation. But then to have my perspective shifted to the desert and the battle with hoplessness and to view the outstretched arm as the reaching out to God for hope was very life affirming! it’s a very thought provoking painting.