Philokalia

literary work

The Philokalia (φιλοκαλία "love of the good" from φιλία "love" and κάλλος "beauty") is a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters of the Eastern Orthodox Church hesychast tradition. The collection was compiled in the 18th century by Nicodemus the Hagiorite and Macarius of Corinth.

In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem. ~ Evagrios the Solitary

Volume OneEdit

as translated and edited by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (1979)

Evagrios the SolitaryEdit

  • Do not desire wealth for giving to the poor.
    • Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life, vol. 1, p. 32
  • Just as it is possible to think of water both while thirsty and while not thirsty, so it is possible to think of gold with greed and without greed. The same applies to other things.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 40
  • In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 46
  • The demon of avarice, it seems to me, is extraordinarily complex and is baffling in his deceits. Often, when frustrated by the strictness of our renunciation, he immediately pretends to be a steward and a lover of the poor; he urges us to prepare a welcome for strangers who have not yet arrived or to send provisions for absent brethren. He makes us mentally visit prisons in the city and ransom those on sale as slaves. He suggests that we should attach ourselves to wealthy women, and advises us to be obsequious to others who have a full purse. And so, after deceiving the soul, little by little he engulfs it in avaricious thoughts and then hands it over to the demon of self-esteem.
    • On Discrimination, vol. 1, p. 51
  • When you are praying, do not shape within yourself any image of the deity.
    • On Prayer, vol. 1, p. 63
  • You should be aware of this trick: at times the demons split into two groups; and when you call for help against one group, the other will come in the guise of angels.
    • On Prayer, vol. 1, p. 66

Saint Neilos the AsceticEdit

  • The philosopher must be above all a free man, and not a slave of the passions.
  • Philosophy is a state of moral integrity combined with a doctrine of true knowledge concerning reality.
  • One was not rich while another was destitute, nor did one overeat while another starved. The generosity of those who were well off made good what others lacked, this willingness to share eliminating every anomaly and establishing equality and fairness - though even then inequality still existed, produced not as it is now by the mad struggle for social status, but by a great desire to live more humbly than others. Envy, malice, arrogance and haughtiness were banished, along with all that leads to discord.
  • Why do we cling to money and possessions, and disperse our intellect among a host of useless cares? Our preoccupation with such things diverts us from what is more important and makes us neglect the well-being of the soul, leading us to perdition.
  • By crouching a little we are able to spring upwards; and in the same way our faculty of discrimination, after stooping to attend to the needs of the body, can once more look upwards unimpeded, separating itself from all worldly thoughts.
  • Men ... have been given legs that bend: in this way they can descend sometimes to fulfill the needs of the body, and at other times ascend to fulfill those of the soul.
  • We should turn our attention to material things only in so far as some necessity forces us to do so. But always to be creeping on the ground in search of pleasure is defiling and degrading for someone with experience of spiritual knowledge.
  • When bodily concerns predominate, everything in man is asleep: the intellect, the soul and the senses.
  • Improbable details are often included in a story because of the deeper truth they signify.
  • Who, when asked, will refuse to give what is needful to one who lives a holy life?
  • How was Moses able to withstand Pharaoh when he had nothing but holiness to give him courage (cf. Exod. 5)? ... A solitary prophet once censured a king for his unlawful acts, when the king had his whole army with him. ... These holy men achieved such things because they had resolved to live for the soul alone, turning away from the body and its wants. The fact of needing nothing made them superior to all men. They chose to forsake the body and to free themselves from life in the flesh, rather than to betray the cause of holiness and, because of their bodily needs, to flatter the wealthy.
  • But, as for us, when we lack something, instead of struggling courageously against our difficulties, we come fawning to the rich, like puppies wagging their tails in the hope of being tossed a bare bone or some crumbs. To get what we want, we call them benefactors and protectors of Christians, attributing every virtue to them, even though they may be utterly wicked.
  • We should not flatter, because of our needs, those who value highly the very things it is our vocation to despise.

Volume ThreeEdit

as translated and edited by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (1979)

Saint Peter of DamaskosEdit

  • By our free choice we abandon our own wishes and thoughts and do what God wishes and thinks. If we succeed in doing this, there is no object, no activity or place in the whole of creation that can prevent us from becoming what God from the beginning has wished for us to be: that is to say, according to His image and likeness, gods by adoption through grace, dispassionate, just, good and wise.
    • A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, p. 76
  • Woe is me, unhappy that I am! What shall I do? I have sinned greatly; many blessings are bestowed upon me; I am very weak. Many are the temptations: sloth overwhelms me, forgetfulness benights me and will not let me see myself and my many crimes. Ignorance is evil; conscious transgression is worse; virtue is difficult to achieve; the passions are many; the demons are crafty and subtle; sin is easy; death is near; the reckoning is bitter. Alas, what shall I do? Where shall I flee from myself? For I am the cause of my own destruction.
    • A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, vol. 3, p. 112

Volume FiveEdit

as translated by Anna Skoubourdis (2020), p. 305
  • When candle wax is far from the fire, it is solid and can be grasped, but when you put it in the fire it melts, and there it burns in the flame and catches fire and becomes all light and so finds a perfect end in the fire. There is no way for it not to melt in the fire and pour out like water. So too, while man's intellect is by itself, without encountering God, it thinks that everything is solidly in its power. But when it draws near, as it were, to the fire of Divinity and the Holy Spirit, it is completely dominated by that divine light and become all light, and there within the flame of the All-Holy Spirit it is set aflame and softened by divine perceptions. And in that fire of Divinity, there is no way for it to consider it own concerns and desires.


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