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The Mountain of Silence (Kyriacos C. Markides)


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#1 Michael Stickles

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:05 PM

Title: The Mountain of Silence
Author(s): Kyriacos C. Markides
Publisher: Image (Doubleday), New York, NY, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-50092-0
Pages: 256
Sub-Genre: Spiritual Counsels; Orthodox Life
Price: $12.95
Links: Amazon.com; Archangel's Books; Skete.com
Description: From Publishers Weekly: "Markides, a Maine sociologist who was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith and later drifted into agnosticism, continues his spiritual journey homeward in this collection of captivating conversations with the monk Father Maximos. The book is set on the island of Cyprus, where the author and his monastic mentor spent extended periods of time together due to unexpected circumstances that moved Father Maximos from the "Holy Mountain" of Mount Athos. Markides (Riding with the Lion), his interest piqued by an earlier pilgrimage to Mount Athos, used a sabbatical from the University of Maine to further explore the body of Christian mysticism that Mount Athos's monks have preserved since the ninth century. Here, Markides and others pepper the charismatic Maximos with questions on a wide range of topics from angels, saints and demons to the role of icons in worship and the place of hell in Christian belief. Markides is a skillful and skeptical inquisitor whose queries surely must have tried the patience of his mentor. But Maximos rises to the occasion, providing gentle, thoughtful answers that by necessity often transcend the Western mind's reliance on logic in spiritual matters. Markides's work is an excellent resource for spiritual seekers of all levels, answering questions about Christianity in general and Eastern monasticism in particular. It will be of special interest to those who may be unaware of Christianity's deep roots in mysticism."

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#2 Michael Stickles

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 12:04 AM

I almost put this book back on the shelf after reading the first couple of pages. The author, Kyriacos C. Markides, starts by speaking frankly of his disillusionment with his childhood faith (Greek Orthodoxy), his falling into agnosticism, and his interest in spirituality being revived by several years investigating mystics, practicing Transcendental Meditation, and reading the works of numerous Eastern mystics and occultists. When he begins to speak of his experience visiting Mt. Athos, he compares it to what he found in other Eastern religions, saying Athos "is like a Christian equivalent of Tibet" and that the hermits he met were "like Christian yogis".

Fortunately, I kept reading. Markides does not really change this way of looking at things, but the book is not about him or his views; instead, it focuses on the teachings and stories he received from the monk who became his mentor: Father Maximos, a disciple of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos. And while I had worried initially that Markides might paraphrase Father Maximos' words and mix into them his own yogic-inspired understandings, he instead prefers to quote Father Maximos verbatim (he tape-recorded many of their conversations), presenting a good number of dialogues between Father Maximos and himself as well as others whom they both met.

Most of the teachings of Father Maximos' which Markides relates are in answer to questions raised by Markides himself (or sometimes by others), and include discussions of topics such as: monasticism and its place in today's world; what it means to know God; illnesses of the heart; various kinds of logismoi, or negative thoughts, and how to deal with them; the difference between icons and idols; the activities of demons and of angels; the difference between human ideas of justice and divine justice; and much more. He also includes in several places Father Maximos' rememberences of Elder Paisios and the extraordinary events he experienced or heard about in connection with him.

This book is a treasure of spiritual teachings and stories, and is one that I go back and reread periodically. Every time I reread it, I find something new in Father Maximos' teachings. To me, the discussions of logismoi and prayer by themselves were more than worth the price of the book.

In Christ,
Michael

#3 Kosta

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:03 AM

I agree with Michael's assessment. If you read this great book, just remember not to take the authors views and opinions into account, I sometimes feel like taking a pen and crossing out some of what the author says, it would simply omit false logic on his part. What the monk- Fr. Maximos teaches on the other hand is extraordinary.

#4 Alice

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 09:15 AM

I loved this book. The saintly Father 'Maximos' is now a Bishop in Cyprus. I pray that I might be able to meet him and get his blessing one day.

In Christ,
Alice

#5 Ken McRae

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 10:59 PM

Markides does not really change this way of looking at things, but the book is not about him or his views; instead, it focuses on the teachings and stories he received from the monk who became his mentor: Father Maximos, a disciple of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos.


Thanks for both an interesting and reassuring review. I too recently purchased this book, along with the sequel, (Gifts of the Desert,) but have not yet read either of them, apart from dipping in here and there. Perhaps his spiritual vision is renewed by the end of the sequel. If it is'nt manifesting some kind of visible transformation by then, I will feel compelled to reassess his spiritual relationship with Fr Maximos. Perhaps Markides does'nt really view Fr Maximos as "his" spiritual mentor? And has merely assumed that posture as a convenient literary device.

#6 Antonios

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 06:10 AM

Perhaps Markides does'nt really view Fr Maximos as "his" spiritual mentor?


Dear Ken,

I think it is impossible to know this truly, since such a thing is only known by God, but from my reading of the book, my opinion for what its worth is that he really does regard him as his spiritual father.

In Christ,
Antonios

#7 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 11:51 AM

Dear Ken,

I think it is impossible to know this truly, since such a thing is only known by God, but from my reading of the book, my opinion for what its worth is that he really does regard him as his spiritual father.

In Christ,
Antonios



The only way to truly know if Fr. Maximos is Mr. Markides' spiritual Father is to ask him. Speculations only lead to misinterpretations, as far as I can understand this.

marie+duquette

#8 John W.

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 12:51 AM

The only way to truly know if Fr. Maximos is Mr. Markides' spiritual Father is to ask him. Speculations only lead to misinterpretations, as far as I can understand this.

marie+duquette


In 2006, I had the pleasure of hosting a visiting monk from Mount Athos. I had recently finished this book and told him how much I enjoyed it.

His face darkened and he said, "Throw it in the trash NOW! The book is plani!"

How that for a review?

What else could I do? This was a monk from the Holy Mountain waiting for me to throw the book in the trash! I chucked it.

He told me that he had visited the now-Metropolitan Athanasios and asked him about Markides. According to this monk, this upset the Metropolitan who sadly told him, "Markides is NOT Orthodox!"

#9 Robert (Cyril) Brown

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 02:38 AM

I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed this book, it was very awkwardly written. The author seems to go out of his way to present his former beliefs compared to his illumination by his experiences with Fr. Maximos.

Still a good book and it would be a great pick for an Orthodox small book discussion group.

Cyril

#10 Michael Stickles

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 07:56 PM

In 2006, I had the pleasure of hosting a visiting monk from Mount Athos. I had recently finished this book and told him how much I enjoyed it.

His face darkened and he said, "Throw it in the trash NOW! The book is plani!"

How that for a review?


I can't help but wonder - if a book were made containing only Fr Maximos' sayings and stories from Mountain of Silence, would the monk have still considered it plani, or was it just Markides' commentary that caused him to describe the book that way? I think most of us who enjoy and re-read the book start to automatically blip over Markides' thoughts to get to the next gem from Fr Maximos.

Michael

#11 Salaam Yitbarek

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 06:59 PM

I've read it several times, I've given away several copies, and I wish everyone had one!

And my dream would be to have the Metropolitan Athanasios visit our church for some lectures.

I just wanted to point out that Markides' question and answer style actually has some advantages. He asks the common questions that others have asked us and that sometimes we ask ourselves and presents Father Maximos the opportunity to answer these questions. This is great for evangelization and apologetics. I've sent this book to doubters, and it has had a profound effect.

#12 David Robles

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 11:27 PM

I love this book! I have read it 4 or 5 times. Fr Maximos is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limasol, Cyprus ( before his crowning as bishop) . And I was rapt by his teaching. This is the book's greatest asset.

Kyriacos exposition of other spiritual disciplines besides the Orthodox faith is at times too heavy. I guess since the book is Kyriaco's conversion story, this dwelling on and on on other things, is unavoidable. I have listen or read reviews that make the point of a serious flaw, the book presents Christianity as a spiritual discipline comparable to but not necessarily superior to other eastern disciplines. An emphasis on Christ and the dogma of the Church is missing throughout the book, except of course in the understanding of 'Fr Maximos'. I reread the book after being made aware of this criticism and I'm afraid I have to agree.

Notwithstanding this fact, the book is very much worth reading.

Edited by M.C. Steenberg, 16 November 2009 - 08:32 AM.
Added blank lines between paras


#13 Theophrastus

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 09:02 PM

For those who are looking into Orthodoxy, and who are coming from an Indic (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Tantric) or Sinic (Confucian, Daoist) or Tibetan (Vajrayana, Bon) perspective, this book can reveal a Christianity that has not ignored the practice of meditation and contemplation.

#14 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 10 March 2010 - 08:30 PM

With so many unimpeachable things to read by the Fathers as well as studying scripture, even a slightly "bad" review will cause me to ignore a book. Additionally, most of the books I've loved and been blessed by have been given to me by people I trust and love, (<SMILE> usually my wife). So this book, the Mountain of Silence, has never been of interest to me.

Last week, after we had a discussion about Elder Porphyrios , the priest-monk at the nearby men's monastery went to his cell, came back and handed me a copy of this book with the same advice written in some above posts: ignore the author's opinions.

I skimmed it that night and the first thing I read was an account of an event in the life of Father Arseny. (The book, "Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father"
moved my heart towards Orthodoxy in a way no friend's words had.) Then I read this: "The perfected human being is that person in whose heart there is room for everybody." Father Maximos. Who? Then, some more skimming: "... the name of Jesus Christ for the believer is like a high fortress-wall that gives the soul the strength to resist harmful influences from outside." Elder Sophrony, quoted by Fr. Maximos when discussing the Jesus prayer. I was drawn in.

It covers a lot of ground: prayer, monasticism, sexuality, etc. As an example, the author asks ""So, what kind of methodology did the holy elders invent to master the logismoi?" Father Maximos answers. (I just threw that in because of the recent logismoi discussion).

The book - actually, the words of Father Maximos - has been a blessing to me. It's very easy to ignore the authors voice/opinions... and I hope the he one day comes to know and embrace the Truth he has been blessed to hear so intimately.

I will read it often and shared it with many. (<SMILE> I'm not a critic, this is just a stream of consciousness opinion)

In Christ,
Andrew

#15 Dora Aivaliotou

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 07:10 PM

Father Maximos of the Mountain of Silence is my spiritual father. As you know he is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus.
I talked to Gerontas Athanasios a few days ago about your discussion on the Mountain of Silence and he told me to tell you that what one should concentrate on the book is the teaching of Father Maximos because that has been handed down from his experience with many wise and saintly gerontes on Mount Athos. One should not mind Kyriakos comments because that is just his style. This style of his makes the words of Father Maximos even more crystal clear! He also told me to tell you that the book is definitely NOT PLANI!

#16 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:29 PM

Thank God for your affirmation that the book MOUNTAIN of SILENCE is not "plani" as some on MONACHOS fear! I like your comment that the words of Father Maximos are made more crystal clear by Kyriakos style of writing. The teachings of Father Maximos are, at least for me, today a treasure made available to us modern Orthodox Christians. thank you, Mrs. Dora Alvaliotou for your kind words. I hope that you will continue to be part of this Forum.

marie-duquette

#17 Rick H.

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 10:26 PM

Thank God for your affirmation that the book MOUNTAIN of SILENCE is not "plani" as some on MONACHOS fear!


What I like about the author of Mountain of Silence is that he clearly does not write from a spirit of fear (or timidity). Yes, thanks Mrs. Alvaliotou for this contribution and welcome to the forum!

#18 Alice

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:19 AM

Father Maximos of the Mountain of Silence is my spiritual father. As you know he is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus.
I talked to Gerontas Athanasios a few days ago about your discussion on the Mountain of Silence and he told me to tell you that what one should concentrate on the book is the teaching of Father Maximos because that has been handed down from his experience with many wise and saintly gerontes on Mount Athos. One should not mind Kyriakos comments because that is just his style. This style of his makes the words of Father Maximos even more crystal clear! He also told me to tell you that the book is definitely NOT PLANI!


Dear Dora,

How blessed you are to have Bishop Athanasios as your Spiritual Father! I heard him speak as a guest of a church in Athens, and also I hear him speak weekly on the Piraiki Ekklisia website. I love his style and his thoughts...and cherished the Mountain of Silence as one of my favorite books!

Xristos Anesti!
Alice

#19 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 03:49 AM

Thank you for your affirming message from your spiritual father, Mrs. Alvaliotou.

<SMILE> Very interesting timing: I literally had the book on my lap as I read your post a few minutes ago (using my blackberry) intending to read it after scanning Monachos.

Ok, clearly I have some reading to do.

In Christ's love,
Andrew

Father Maximos of the Mountain of Silence is my spiritual father. As you know he is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus.
I talked to Gerontas Athanasios a few days ago about your discussion on the Mountain of Silence and he told me to tell you that what one should concentrate on the book is the teaching of Father Maximos because that has been handed down from his experience with many wise and saintly gerontes on Mount Athos. One should not mind Kyriakos comments because that is just his style. This style of his makes the words of Father Maximos even more crystal clear! He also told me to tell you that the book is definitely NOT PLANI!



#20 Reader Nektarios

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 07:59 PM

Loved this book. Friend of mine sent it to me in Afghanistan. I ready it 3 times.
The authors other book riding the lion was horrible though. love




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