My heart is full of gladness. I have been staying at St Anthony's
Monastery for almost three weeks and the peace within my heart is
indescribable. It is well with my soul indeed.
I can only hope that when I go back to the world, I will be able to
keep in mind the one thing needful, remembrance of God. Photis
Kontoglou describes this effort very eloquently in his article,
The Spiritual World
by Photios Kontoglou
Contemporary man has altogether forgotten the world that is within himself and has occupied himself only with the world that is outside himself, the material world. And he investigates by means of science “the outside of the cup and platter” (Matthew 23:25).
One of these worlds is material, the other is spiritual. One of them is for the transitory life; the other for the eternal. One of them is in space and time, while the other is beyond these.
Today’s man lives materialistically, busying himself with pseudo-spiritual things. Only matter interests him, the rather coarse, more tangible aspect of the universe. He cannot experience spiritual reality by means of his bodily senses and does not concern himself at all with it. He who hurls into space machines made of aluminum, he who has his brain full of numbers, screws, springs, and other such things, cannot understand what is hidden behind the material world that he perceives by means of his physical senses.
How can he taste the fruit that is hidden inside the husk of the universe? He nourishes himself only with the husk, for it is this husk that his materialistic science is constantly studying. How can he understand the words of Christ, who says: “The kingdom of God is within you”, or those of Paul the Apostle who says: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you”
(1 Cor. 3:16). How can this barbaric and hard heartened mankind, which is attached t the mud of matter, understand those words of divinely inspired Paul, who says that carnal men “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator”? (Rom. 1:25)
For those who are engrossed with the knowledge of material things,
“the mystical gate is closed”, and they are unable to cast a glance “into the Holy of Holies.” Their materialistic minds do not experience any other life besides the life of the flesh. They have placed all their hopes in it and are incapable of hearkening to the words of Paul, who says:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19); that is, “If we believe only in this life, we are the most miserable of all human beings.” And elsewhere he calls such materialistic individuals persons “who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
And indeed we see that such mankind is full of anguish, fear and agitation, because the “wages of sin is death”. “For whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8). And elsewhere it is written that “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). In saying ‘peace’, Saint Paul means true peace, whereas pseudo peace is to be found in the external, material world, in which the materialists believe.
“What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”, asks Christ (Matt. 16:26). But who listens to Him? All of us are striving to gain this unreal world, and we do not want to understand that which used to be sung by a beggar with the wisdom that is possessed by simple men:
I entered into the world naked
and will go out of it naked.
The world is alien,
it belongs to no one.
Listen, therefore, my brother to what Saint Paul again says, and try to understand something about the hidden world of mystery that is behind the external world that we investigate with the aid of machines, believing in our learned ignorance that we possess knowledge of the roots of the totality of things. He says: “The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Rom. 8:21). ‘Bondage of corruption’ is the slavery of those who live and labor for the corruptible world of matter; those whose thoughts are bad, foolish; those who are without faith and without love - full of death, since they are preoccupied with the world of corruption that has no hope, but is full of darkness and despair. These individuals are the faithful followers of Satan, who serve him obediently without knowing why.
On the other hand, the faithful ones of God, “the children of God”, possess freedom true freedom, which consists in knowledge of the Truth, that is, of Christ. Only with this knowledge do the nuptial doors open, from which the soul beholds the wondrous light of the incorruptible essence of the cosmos. The thoughts of these children of God are good, peaceful, and gladdening. “Become peaceful within yourself”, says a certain saint ( here Photios is referring to St Seraphim of Sarov), “And heaven and earth will become peaceful. Enter into the chamber that is within you, and from there you will behold the palace of heaven.”
The things that exist in the incorruptible heaven that has been revealed by Christ, and that which the soul looks from the mystical chamber that is inside us, are the true things. They are blessed, peaceful isles in the ocean that extends beyond every material constellation and are outside the slavery of space and time.
1. Translated by Constantine Cavarnos from Kontoglou’s Mystical Flowers, Vol. 6, Works (Erga), (Athens: Astir Publishing Company, 1981), pp.85-88.
Divine Ascent Vol. 1 Numbers 3 / 4 ,PP.21-23 A Journal of Orthodox Faith, Monastery of Shangai and San Francisco, November 1998