Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Markides' books - Part 1

Alrighty, it appears that whatever I'm doing with Blogger is sort of working so I'm just going for it. As I have mentioned probably ad nauseum on my blog, I'm just a regular person. I hold no theological degree, I'm not a PK (priest's kid), and heck, I'm not even married to an Orthodox person. I'm a cradle Orthodox woman who knew next to nothing about Orthodoxy as a child, pretty much abandoned the Church when I left home for college, and then returned almost 10 years ago at the age of 33. During the journey of the return which started in 2001 and finally *officially* occurred in February of 2003 when I stepped back into the Church, I read books. Lots of them. I started with the Orthodox Study Bible. If you are literate and call yourself a Christian, you have to have a Bible. IMHO, the OSB is a marvelous one and I recommend it to Christians of all flavors. After the Bible though, there are just so many things to read.

In the beginning I was choosing books without the advice of a spiritually mature person, so my choices were whatever I had heard of on BeliefNet or whatever was free. One of first books I picked up, because it was at my local library and hence free, was The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos Markides. Yes, I know, *some* people don't like Markides' books. The complaint is that Markides is too liberal in his beliefs, yada yada. That's fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. For me though, this book was a Godsend. It had nothing to do with miracles and such that are found throughout the book, although that stuff was fascinating and edifying. It had all to do with one chapter. The chapter was on logismoi. If you don't know what logismoi is, don't worry, I didn't know the word either, however I was all too familiar with it. I distinctly remember reading the chapter and saying to myself "OH.MY.GOD! There is a name for this?!!!" Here's an excerpt from the book which I conveniently found on another Orthodox blog called Orthodox Christian Medicine.
'Logismoi are much more intense than simple thoughts. They penetrate into the very depths of a human being. They have enormous power. Let us say,' Fr. Maximos went on to clarify, 'that a simple thought is a weak logismos. We need to realize, however, that certain thoughts, or logismoi, once inside a human being, can undermine every trace of a spiritual life in its very foundation. People who live in the world don't know about the nature and power of logismoi. That is, they don't have the experience of that reality. But as they proceed on their spiritual struggle, particularly through systematic prayer, then are they able to understand the true meaning and power of this reality. (pg 118).
"'I have noticed that some people, particularly young, oversensitive souls,' Fr. Maximos said, breaking the silence, 'suffer so much from these logismoi that it often leads them into psychopathological conditions. They reach such states partly because of their ignorance of the nature of logismoi. Such persons who may be attacked by a perverted, or let us say a sinful logismos, are unable to realize that such a logismos does not necessarily emanate from within themselves, but is directed toward them from the outside. They feel guilty and begin what the late Paisios used to call the 'the repetition of those whys.' They become obsessive. Oversensitive persons become even more sensitive and blame themselves with all kinds of questions: "Why do I have such a thought, why?" Such people are in dire need of proper instruction on how to handle the logismoi,' Fr. Maximos pointed out. He went on to say that the most dangerous logismoi are those sent by demonic spirits that get support and get activated by our own passions. Logismoi coming from demons are extremely devious and duplicitous" (pg. 120).

In all my life, I never had a single person ever talk to me about thoughts. I'm not blaming anyone, I'm pretty sure my own parents were not taught about logismoi and probably not my Sunday school teachers either. Or maybe they did teach about logismoi and I was sick that day. (Like I am convinced that I was home sick from school when they taught conversions of pints into quarts into liters. To this day I can't get any of that straight!) Whatever the case may be, THIS NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT TO EVERYONE! I have spoken with my eldest about logismoi (she's almost 14) and thankfully it has been discussed at summer camp as well. We deal with our thoughts 24/7 from birth to death. You would think this would be a topic to talk about.

I'll leave it at this for today. There will be at least one other post on Markides' books soon. The Mountain of Silence referenced above was followed up by Gifts of the Desert and then his latest which I have just finished called, The Inner River.


Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading this book for my studies. While I do raise an eyebrow every time Markides equates Orthodoxy to one of the many world's new age religions or plug's his wife 'world-peace-making-eco-camps', the rest of the book is priceless and any conversation piece recorded with "Elder Maximos" and Elder Paisios is worth the reader's time.

Desert Dweller said...

I agree with you Anon and it did annoy me a bit after I read the first book. However, once you get through the third book it appears that Markides does present Orthodoxy as separate from all others in that its ultimate basis is in the love of God. At least, this is what I inferred from it.

You are completely spot on about the counsels of *Fr. Maximos* and Elder Paisios. They are what makes the books. In the third book Fr. Maximos explains the fruits of the Holy Spirit in such a way that I never even considered. Left me shaking my head in a wow-that-was-awesome kind of way and made me realize the extreme importance of reading the Holy Scriptures with the guidance of someone spiritually mature. More on that in the next Markides' post.

Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Elder Paisios, perhaps the last true Elder. Now, I must buy the other books.