I could not help smiling while reading the book, because Scott reflects the views of many new converts to Orthodoxy, including myself at the time I was becoming Orthodox.
Scott's style is a little stuffy in the beginning but throughout the rest of the book I agree with Bishop Kallistos' view. The story runs smoothly and seamlessly and I had the feeling that I was traveling with Scott.
Those experienced as spiritual guides strongly discourage the kind of introspection that the author indulged in, concerning his progress in prayer. Scott realizes that he needs a spiritual father. Among the things that a spiritual father can do for Mr. Cairns is to provide a more accurate assessment of where he is and also how to get to the next stage (as well as what the real stages are!)
Obviously Scott has read St Isaac the Syrian. St Isaac has some very pious and lofty opinions about Gehenna and eternity including the opinion that God will find a way to reconcile every creature (including Satan and the demons) with Himself. I should mention here that St Isaac's view is not the same as Origen's. But it is also a fact, that St Isaac's view is expressed as an opinion, and it is not the dogmatic teaching of the Church. Today is the day of salvation and Hell and Gehenna are very real possibilities depending on the choice we make now. If Gehenna will end because it its a consequence of sin, we do not know for sure.
(Please see, 'Isaac of Nineveh' The Second Part, Translated by
Sebastian Brock, 1995 Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum
I feel the most moving passage of this book is in page 136, where a monk, in his conversation with Scott, teaches him the meaning of the struggle of the Patriarch Jacob with the Angel. I literally gasped when I read this. This was a very holy moment in the story that actually captured the process of paradosis, Holy Tradition and Orthodox life being passed on. And Scott spoiled the moment with his question. He knew it too. Mount Athos is a place where spiritual knowledge is communicated through silence. This was a moment to listen prayerfully.
The claim of the Orthodox Church is absolute and very politically incorrect. In this the Councils, the Fathers and the saints are very precise and rather severe. Ecumenism is the heresy of the 21st century. The Orthodox Church will eventually triumph over it just as She triumphed over Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Iconoclasm and Barlaamism with its modern expression as Scholasticism.
The most tragic moment of the book is Scott's broad and very judgmental criticism of the community surrounding St Anthony's Monastery in Florence, Arizona. He concedes that the practice of moving near monasteries dates from antiquity. I know many of these people personally and I can tell you that they are just people trying very hard to overcome secularism and their personal sin. I have some very dear and loving friends among them. Scott is absolutely wrong in his presumption, as a new convert to Orthodoxy, to think that he is in the position to discern the state of the heart of those around him!
The teaching about the essential unity of all mankind is very Orthodox. When the saints grasp this reality they pray with tears for the salvation of all. When we understand this, we will be eager to forgive everyone anything and everything. Each one of us must make the choice between Light or darkness. And God will respect that choice.