Riding with the Lion
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:13 AM [+]
I've just finished Kyriacos Markides' book by this title. I am less than impressed; it simply does not compare to Mountain of Silence and I am more than happy to tell you why.
Kyriacos, it seems to me, is a very different person in this book (or I should say was a very different person while writing this book). The whole first half of the book is focused upon the emerging interest in the West with the New Age religions (along with other more traditional eastern religions such as Hinduism.) Gurus, shamans and the like abound and Professor Markides seems quite taken by them all. I do not think I have heard the word "esoteric" used more frequently than in this book and if you look at the definition of the term, you can see how it certainly mates up well with gnosticism.
When Orthodoxy finally does make its appearance in the book, it is looked upon very critically and Markides goes to great lengths to distinguish between "esoteric" Orthodoxy (which he praises highly and sees as the future of Christianity) and "exoteric" Orthodoxy (The hierarchy, the dogmas etc). Here is an example:
...the Eastern Orthodox mystical theology and practices that have been preserved on Mount Athos can play an important role in the regeneration of Christianity, once that theology is freed from its medieval context and adapted to the needs and ways of the modern Christian West.
Ummm...maybe the needs and ways of the modern Christian West need to be freed? Maybe? Perhaps? Geez, why do we think that the term "modern" is synonymous with "right, true and good."? I'm gonna go off on a rant if I'm not careful!
Reference is often made to something called the "Primordial Tradition" which as I understand it is the REAL "truth" above the culturally religious expressions of "truth." From this pedestal (of recognizing the Primordial Tradition) Markides is able to look down upon the Orthodox Tradition and pick out all the good stuff - that stuff which at least on the surface looks just like what all the Yogis, Gurus and shaman's are doing. Ahhh...syncretism. Allusion is even made to that old "many paths up to the same mountain top" proverb.
However, there are some VERY bright moments, especially when Markides is on Mount Athos and meets up with good ole Father Maximos - the hero of Mountain of Silence. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Markides includes what I read to be a rant by Fr. Maximos (I'm sure in reality he was quite calm and collected) after Markides tries to compare the Jesus Prayer to a mantra.
What Markides fails to see (at least in this book) is that those monks, fathers, and elders on that mountain who he so loves for their "esoteric" practices are no doubt the greatest proponents of Orthodoxy in its entirty! They adamently engage in the fullness of Orthodoxy and would be scandalized by the very notion that you could pull portions of it out and use it in your own little way...they would label such as spiritually dangerous and profoundly arrogant. Hell, most of those guys up there are WAY more conservative than me and would be quick to label Roman Catholics and all protestants as heretics...recall their reaction when the Pope was to visit Greece!
Of course Markides would dismiss all of that as being the "medieval" stuff from which the "esoteric" stuff needs to be freed. Can anyone else see the arrogance of standing above Mount Athos and seperating the sheep practices and beliefs from the goats'?
Orthodoxy does not have "mystics" like in the west and it does not have any "esoteric" beliefs and practices.
Once Markides got around to writing Mountain of Silence he seems to me to be a changed man...or at the very least he tries to take and represent the Orthodox Church as she takes and represents herself, and that to me seems much more fair and honest.