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The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Dionysios Farasiotis)


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#1 Thomas Lauffer

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 02:35 AM

Title: The Gurus, The Young man, and Elder Paisios
Author: Dionysios Farasiotis
Publisher: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood
ISBN: 978-1-887904-16-2
Pages: 311
Price: $17.00
Links: sainthermanpress.com
Description: Powerful memoir of a person's struggle to find the one true faith as he fell victim to the false religions of the east. This book declares the spiritual gifts in authentic spiritual fathers of Mt Athos, and how the prayers of those gifted by God can help us out of serious spiritual trouble.

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#2 Ken McRae

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:57 AM

This review tells us next to nothing. It would have been nicer if you had included a few remarks about the mind of Elder Paisios concerning Hindu philosophy.

Innokenti

#3 Theophrastus

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 06:26 PM

This review tells us next to nothing. It would have been nicer if you had included a few remarks about the mind of Elder Paisios concerning Hindu philosophy.

Innokenti


Here's a bit more expansive podcast review; an extended excerpt; and an excerpt on the demonic.

Edited by Theophrastus, 07 June 2009 - 06:54 PM.


#4 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 09:42 PM

Here's a bit more expansive podcast review; an extended excerpt; and an excerpt on the demonic.



My Spiritual Father is the disciple of Elder Paisius (like Elder Sophrony was for St Silouan and like Arch Zacharias was to Elder Sophrony - same logic) and when he was here in Melbourne a month ago for easter ... we were talking about what books I should read. The parish priest at the church we were at recommended this book.

My Spiritual Father told me not to bother with it ... he thinks it does not really bring about spiritual benefit and again anything that is said by the Elder Paisius is unique to the situation of this person and should not be taken as counsels for everyone else.

Needless to say, I have the book sitting in my room and havent read it yet ... it has a nice blue cover :) Since my SF never said I couldnt read it but said he preferred I didnt ... my heart has not considered to pick it up yet.

Apparantly others who have read it love it ... I guess cause any conversion story from occultish like practices is always mysterious and appealing.

#5 Ken McRae

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 12:50 AM

My Spiritual Father told me not to bother with it ... he thinks it does not really bring about spiritual benefit and again anything that is said by the Elder Paisius is unique to the situation of this person and should not be taken as counsels for everyone else.


Your testimony of this spiritual counsel is very interesting, to be sure, but can we deduce from it that the book is of no spiritual benefit to anyone at all? Probably not. It seems possible that his spiritual counsel was uniquely for you, and cannot be applied as a general rule to everyone.

What the book reveals about the mind of Elder Paisios is likely to be of great benefit to many people who are reading it simply to acquire some exposure to the Elder's holy mind and spiritual way.

#6 Patrick Lee

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 03:57 AM

My Spiritual Father is the disciple of Elder Paisius (like Elder Sophrony was for St Silouan and like Arch Zacharias was to Elder Sophrony - same logic) and when he was here in Melbourne a month ago for easter ... we were talking about what books I should read. The parish priest at the church we were at recommended this book.

My Spiritual Father told me not to bother with it ... he thinks it does not really bring about spiritual benefit and again anything that is said by the Elder Paisius is unique to the situation of this person and should not be taken as counsels for everyone else.

Needless to say, I have the book sitting in my room and havent read it yet ... it has a nice blue cover :) Since my SF never said I couldnt read it but said he preferred I didnt ... my heart has not considered to pick it up yet.

Apparantly others who have read it love it ... I guess cause any conversion story from occultish like practices is always mysterious and appealing.


The benefit of the book is a reminder of the power of the Living God vs. the danger of Hinduism and the occult. After I read the book, I was really inspired to read "With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man," which encompasses his teaching. I've had friends recommend the Gurus to those wandering amongst different faiths, with very positive outcomes. One finally felt inspired to go on a pilgrimage to St. Anthony's and has since returned after some very positive conversations with that Elder Paisios.

#7 Theophrastus

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 04:16 AM

The benefit of the book is a reminder of the power of the Living God vs. the danger of Hinduism and the occult.


On the other hand, the not-so-beneficial part of the book is its implication that all Hindus (and Buddhists and Jains and Sikhs, etc.) are somehow consciously worshipping evil and demonic forces. It's one thing to understand what this young fellow went through; it's another to extrapolate what he experienced to the point of literally demonizing a whole tradition, many adherents of which might be co-workers, acquaintances, friends, family members, and spouses.

#8 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 04:33 AM

Read it last year at the urging of a friend who dropped it by, found it annoyed me that I took time from other great writings and away from my family to spend irretrievable moments of my life reading about a man who kept choosing to go his own way. I have my own history to remind me how willful a man can be and so I didn't learn anything I can recall. Maybe I did.

At the same time, I can see how it would engage the mind of folks who can't trust anyone's advice and have to put their hand in a fire to be sure it will actually burn you.

As I recall, the wealth of supernatural experiences he wrote about also caused me to step back a bit, much like a Carlos Castenada book did back in the 70's. Not that it's not possible, of course.

I remember, after reading much of the book, saying to a friend "How much manna do we need from God before we truly trust him?" I needed a boatload. And not a dingy... the Titanic.

Does anyone know what the author is doing with his life now? And while we're at it, did Jonah ever get it right...? Will I? Lord have mercy!

In Christ,

Andrew

My Spiritual Father is the disciple of Elder Paisius (like Elder Sophrony was for St Silouan and like Arch Zacharias was to Elder Sophrony - same logic) and when he was here in Melbourne a month ago for easter ... we were talking about what books I should read. The parish priest at the church we were at recommended this book.

My Spiritual Father told me not to bother with it ... he thinks it does not really bring about spiritual benefit and again anything that is said by the Elder Paisius is unique to the situation of this person and should not be taken as counsels for everyone else.

Needless to say, I have the book sitting in my room and havent read it yet ... it has a nice blue cover :) Since my SF never said I couldnt read it but said he preferred I didnt ... my heart has not considered to pick it up yet.

Apparantly others who have read it love it ... I guess cause any conversion story from occultish like practices is always mysterious and appealing.



#9 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 05:16 AM

I think that is the point my Spiritual Father was trying to emphasise to me ... and the point that Elder Porfyrios would emphasise to my Spiritual Father ... it is NOT good to dwell in the dark but to dwell in the light. Books of this nature would not appeal to Elder Porfyrios nor would he recommend that we spend our time reading about people's conversions from occult, hindy, buddhism whatever the case might be because it takes away from the time that we can spend with the writings of the Saints who talk about the living God by experience of having lived the living Word.

He never told me the book was bad or wrong .. he merely pointed out that for the Orthodox who has not just been baptised but is living the sacramental life ... our time is better spent on more constructive literature and probably wasted on literature that spends time disecting other traditions ... and thus he proceeded to canonise me in reading only Patristic writings (which I have been doing ever since).

He did side comment that such a book is useful for people who are outside of Orthodoxy in that it can help them come to Orthodoxy ...

V.

#10 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 09:48 AM

This is a very intriguing book, as is borne witness to by the variety of reviews / responses already posted.

I received and read this book several months ago, and had a very mixed reaction. Overall, it was ‘not my kind of volume’ and I had a somewhat negative reaction to it; but, on the other hand, it contained some elements I found helpful. A book such as this is a very specific ‘type’, and as such is going to be of use to some, and not to others.

Here are a few thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the book, from my own personal point of view:

On the positive side, it presented a view of the religions of the east (particularly various forms of guru-led Hinduism and off-shoot sects of the same) that is rarely seen, and which I found refreshing. Others may object (as some have already done, above) at the emphasis upon the demonic in these groups, as the book portrays them; but this is precisely what I found of value. Orthodoxy does in fact speak rather strongly – in her liturgical and patristic texts – about the demonic nature of false religions and false worship, and in our contemporary society the tendency is far too often to distance oneself from these views, preferring to psychologies reality rather than admit of demonic activity in any practical and real way. So while there may come a general admissions that ‘demons exist’ and ‘there is something demonic about false worship’, there is a strong reticence amongst people today to admit of any actual demonic reality to such groups, in practical, ‘hands-on’ terms. This is compounded by a false and misguided tendency in modern society to view as ‘unkind’, ‘uncharitable’, or ‘unfair’ claims that a group, a sect, a religion, or a person may be under the influence of demons and demonic activity. I’ve written elsewhere in this Community of my interpretation of this as a false-compassion: assessing a person or group as being under the influence of the demons is perceived as ‘saying something bad about the person’, when in fact it is the precise opposite: it is saying something bad about the demons, and addressing the person or group not as principal wrong-doer. In this sense, I was very happy to see the book address the various sects addressed in what I consider more helpful spiritual terms. There is no attempt here to by syncretistic or accommodating: demonic activity is called as such, and the way out of such possession clearly seen.

To my mind, that is the book’s chief strength. Beyond that, I found most of its contents rather more problematic. The willingness of its author to speak in such detailed, extensive terms about spiritual experiences that were given by God to him, for his needs and concerns, seemed to me to edge far too close to ‘casting pearls before the swine’. Despite the fact that I do not doubt for even a moment the fact that God worked miracles in this man’s life, that these were miracles worked at the prayers of a great and sanctified elder, etc., I found myself—whenever coming upon a portion of the text that would deal with these things—skimming quickly and eager to turn the page without reading too much. It felt fairly sacrilegious, to me, to be thrust into the midst of God’s intimate mercy with this person; and there is an ancient tradition in Orthodoxy of keeping such things to oneself, of ‘treasuring them in one’s heart’. There will be occasions, perhaps, when God will call the experiences of our lives into the context of a pastoral need: moments when I will be charged to share certain of my experiences with another person, so as to speak ‘heart-to-heart’ to that person. But this is quite different than broadcasting all one’s experiences—however holy—to all and sundry.

In this sense, I felt the book mixed genuine Orthodox tradition with something fairly different. It clearly exposes the living tradition of true repentance and holiness, bound up in sanctified elders who, in deep love, become intercessors for those of us who are weak in this life; and it shows that this continues in our modern day, and has the power to overcome great delusions of our age. Yet the unabashed openness in exposing spiritual secrets I found rather unusual, in terms of Orthodox tradition—and I do not here use ‘secrets’ to mean some hidden or esoteric Orthodox knowledge that ought not be shared with others; rather, the fact that God works in the secret, hidden places of the heart, and the miracles God works through His saints are not general miracles, but miracles of those deep interior wounds that require healing. It is one thing to share the miracles of God’s healing (to declare that one has been healed, to bear witness to a miraculous healing); but it is quite another to catalogue each and every spiritual experience that one undergoes, and to ‘share these abroad’. This aspect of the book jarred me as rather dissonant with centuries of Orthodox practice.

Overall, then, my views on the book were mixed; but I think the negative aspects (for me) rather outweighed the positive in the end. That said, I have since given a copy to a young man deeply embedded in some of the eastern religious groups mentioned in the book, who is also drawn to Orthodoxy – though, and perhaps this rather sums up my view, I encouraged him to skip over the majority of the author’s words about his miraculous moments and experiences, and just to read the materials on his wanderings in the east.

God will work his own miracles for this young man.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#11 Theophrastus

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Posted 12 July 2009 - 05:03 PM

Frederica discusses the book The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis.

#12 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 03:29 AM

I fiished this wonderful book on the weekend.

I have to say, I was suprised at how well written and sincere it was ... and have to disagree with Fr M.S's review ... to my heart, I found that his open and honest account of his own experiences helped me recognise many spiritual illnesses in my own soul and my own life and thought that many others would feel the same from reading his own testimony ...

His experiences do not seem far-fetched and I only say that since I have had experiences with Elders and even Elder Paisios and Elder Porfyrios so everything he has shared is a truth that exists in our Orthodox church ...

Glory to God that we have had such Elders, who throught the strength of their love and prayers have helepd many strangers from across the globe and continue to do so even after their sleep!

Elder Paisius and Elder Porfyrios may your tears of love and compassion and philotimo help our world today!

Your humble daughter,
vasiliki

#13 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 03:25 PM

Dear Vasiliki,

Of course, there is no problem with your disagreeing with my review; books provoke different reactions in different readers.

Though I must say that, since I wrote my above review, I've re-read half of the book; and I feel precisely as before, and somewhat more strongly.

In briefest summation:

  • I find the characterisation of Eastern religions' practices very refreshing; and
  • I find the detailed expression of personal experiences quite foreign to the Orthodox ethos.
INXC, Dcn Matthew

#14 Nina

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 05:59 PM

Yesterday was the day when some years ago Elder Paisios departed this earth. May his holy prayers and intercessions to God help us all always.

#15 James Haddad

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 07:56 PM

I think M.C. Steenberg's review was very good and largely sums up my views of the book. I would just like to make a few comments on the book.

From what I gathered, the author belonged to a phenomena that was going on during his time when basically college age and young adults from Europe and America were traveling to the East in search of mystical/spiritual experiences. There are a lot of books written by people that did this. At one the author comments of the many westerners tripped into coming to India by Hermann Hesse (author of Sidhartha, http://www.amazon.co...52006552&sr=8-1), and Windows on the House of Islam (http://www.amazon.co...2006589&sr=1-1'>http://www.amazon.co...52006614&sr=1-2). Some of the books I have read from in this genre are, The Empty Mirror (http://www.amazon.co...52006552&sr=8-1), and Windows on the House of Islam (http://www.amazon.com/Windows-House-Islam-Spirituality-Religious/dp/0520210867/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252006589&sr=1-1). The thing that separates this book The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios from these other books, is the author's link to Elder Paisios which allows him to spiritually survive, unlike the other books Ive mentioned. If you have read those books, and/or other books from that genre, then I highly recommend that you read this book! because this book might be called the "Christian counter" to those books.

That said, one other point I really did enjoy in the book was the theme of love. And the way he talks about the his relationships with the gurus he meets and compares them to his relationship with Elder Paisios.

#16 Max Percy

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 07:03 PM

I don't disagree with the others better reflections. What I did find helpful about this book was the author's unflinching self disclosure regarding his turning away from the Church and Christ even with having many extraordinary experiences. This caused me to reflect about my own persistent turning away from God towards my self- preferring myself and other distractions, rather than God-- in a way that has been very helpful to me.

#17 Alice

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 06:59 PM

I just finished this book and found it absolutely captivating. I found the English translation to be done very, very well, and it reads quite easily. I cherished reading about Elder Paisios, and what an instrument of God's love he was for this confused young man.

It is important to remember that the author asked for a blessing to have the experiences in the book published, and he got it. Therefore, I assume that those monastics who gave the blessing, had prayed about it first, and got their 'go ahead' straight from God! :-)

I think this book is very important. Although Americans of this generation do not seem as fascinated by Eastern religions as they did decades ago, Europeans still are. Americans seem more interested in yoga as an exercise and relaxation, but the Yoga studios in Athens, from the websites I saw, seem to really get into the religious part of it as well.

When I was living in Athens for a few years, there were many English women in the expat community I had contact with that were deeply involved in Eastern religion, philosophies, yoga, etc...I used to feel very uncomfortable around their conversations, and how truly serious they were getting into all this stuff on their spare time. Here they were living in an Orthodox country, and yet they knew nothing nor cared to learn anything about Orthodox Christian mysticism, but were involved in Hindu mysticism!

While I was there (a few years ago), there was also a fascination among Greek Americans, English and younger Athenian Greeks in practicing Buddhist 'Reiki' healing.

Hopefully, God will work through this book and speak to those may have dabbled into all this, or who may be considering it.

#18 Ryan

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 02:04 AM

After reading this, and enjoying, my feeling is that the book would have benefited from examining the doctrinal claims of the various gurus. We get very little or no information about what Babaji teaches, only that he has an immensely powerful and dangerous command of his disciples. Many Hindus are actually very wary of the Babaji phenomenon so it would be helpful to explore some broader doctrinal themes.

#19 Fr Jacob

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 08:21 PM

Reading most of the book is like re-reading Carlos Castanada [with Elder Paisios playing Don Genero, and with the Gurus in India standing in for Don Juan. [The Teachings of Don Juan, publ 1968, which "reportedly documents the events that took place during an apprenticeship he claimed to have served with a self-proclaimed Yaqui Indian Sorcerer, don Juan Matus, from Sonora, Mexico, between 1960 and 1965.] Here, the drama is supplied by the question:  whose apprentice will the author be in the end -- the gurus or Elder Paisios. The book is a dramatic presentation of one person's journey to Orthodoxy. It is no more. As an Orthodox Christian book, is uniquely non-traditional. The book says more about the author than either about Elder Paisios or any traditional Orthodox
Christian spiritual life or guidance., and any reader should be cautious about believing they are learning about Orthodox spirituality by reading this book! It may be the best book of it's type since Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the first of that type by an Orthodox Christian. This is a hard type of book to write and this one is well done!

 

It is though,  no doubt a genuine testimonial, to the patience of Christ and the Elders of Mt. Athos, especially
Elder Paisios, with foolish and continually self-directed persons. Elder Paisios gave candies to a spiritual child who matched them against the tid-bits available from Hindu Gurus and in the end, found Orthodox candies sweeter.

 

Not every book is for every person. The author, having sought spiritual power through the occult, had the experiences he described, and Elder Paisios dealt with him wisely. Everything the writer writes passes through his own understanding of things and reading his writing shouldn't be confused with reading the writings of any trustworthy traditional spiritual guide. The author is not that, just a reporter, at best. The book might best be given only to those whose past spiritual experience is similar to those of the writer. Afterward, hopefully, such a reader would enter more fully into the normal life of the spiritual life we share in common and learn about our traditional spiritual teachings and way of life. For others, including Orthodox (especially converts), it seems to me that the book can work to distort a reader's understanding and make Orthodox spiritual life seem somehow similar to what the writer had already experienced before coming to Elder Paisios. I'm particularly disturbed by the degree to
which the writer continues to remain self-dependent and his own judge of his experiences, even after so many years and after having become an Orthodox Christian.


All of us converts to Orthodox Christianity struggle with whatever pre-Orthodox past we have come from. That past experience and understanding continues to color our interpretation of all we come to know as Orthodox Christians. That is definitely the case with this writer. It is enough for us to struggle with our own past let alone being tempted to identify with the kind of spiritual experience recounted by the writer. Why should anyone take on the burden of this convert's past? It seems to me that this book is morelikely to lead to further confusion, not to further clarity, regarding our own spiritual life. Curiosity about things most of us are spared first hand knowledge of (as, unlike the writer, we did not seek them), supplies much of the interest and "appeal" of the book! In the wrong mind and heart it could certainly become a textbook for spiritual fantasy and self-delusion. Certainly there are demons, and we contest against them, but should they be the stuff of this kind of literature?


The author survived his experiences, but not by very much. He did affirm Orthodoxy in the end, yes, but until even then seems not to have learned never to depend on his own individual "insights" and individual  interpretations of the faith. Some of his opinions are unique to him and are not shared by the common tradition of the fathers. Not every convert's story of conversion is worthy of  quotation as a consistent part of our ancient and common
tradition of spiritual wisdom.






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