Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Has Your Nous Descended?

 Has Your Nous Descended
(to the tune of the hymn,  “Are You Washed in the Blood?”}

Has your  nous descended to your heart today?
Has the stillness of unknowing caught your gaze?
Has you wand’ring attention found its native home?
Has your nous returned to your heart

    Has your nous, found your heart?
Has your gaze seen the stillness of the Lord?
Has the gate to theosis opened through the grace of God?
Has your nous descended to your heart?

2.        Have you warred against the passions with the Jesus Prayer?
Have you stilled the senses and the mind?
Have the demons fled from your humility?
Has your heart been prepared for your nous

3.        Has unceasing prayer been your way of life?
Has your body been weaned off of the world?
Has your thought life gathered to the Jesus Prayer?
Has neptic vigil made you aware?

4.        Has the bread of repentance been your daily fare?
Tears of Compunction and of sorrow filled your heart?
Has bodily stillness led you to your inward Sabbath rest?
Has the Jesus Prayer  set your life apart?

5.        Has the hesychastic pathway called you on to God?
On to union with the Divine?
Has the stillness of unknowing found your ceaseless gaze?
Has your nous returned to its home?

6.        Has the grace of God brought unceasing prayer?
Has visionary prayer come into your heart?
Has what He is by Nature, come to you by grace?
Do you  practice divine  Sonship as your art?

The Sanctifying Value of the Stillness

The Sanctifying Value of the Stillness

In the Scripture we are told to labour to enter into His Rest. This rest we are told to enter is an inner state of Stillness, that we are drawn to by the Spirit, that is the same as the rest that Christ entered when He ascended, then offered His blood on the heavenly altar and finally seated at the right hand of the Father.  Because the Father cannot be seen or conceived of, to be seated at His right hand is to  be seated in a place where all thought has ceased, for He is beyond conception.  Because it is a seating in the heavenlies in Christ it is also the place of absolutely satisfying Presence of the Divine. 
The Fathers describe a transition in the life of prayer and this is the descent of the 'nous' into the heart.  The nous is the eye of the heart and when it returns to the heart, it sees intuitively  as in a mirror the heavenly vision.
When this first happened to me, I was utterly amazed and discovered that my daily routine of prayer facilitated the daily return of the nous to the heart.
After a period of time I noticed that, whereas my 'nous' would descend into the rest, it was not a given, that it would be seated in the rest.  The rest of God beckoned me on, but I discovered that I would find my thoughts going this way and that, or else I was really desiring to be somewhere else than in hesychastic prayer.  I discovered that when the Lord showed me these things,  He was showing me subtle idolatries that emanated from my heart, and which required simple confession. And as they were confessed the beatitude of the Stillness would come and then I would find perfect rest and contentment simply to be before the Father, ineffably, in Christ.
The Stillness, then, served as a perfect backdrop as it were, to reveal the idolatrous motions of my heart and to offer them to the Lord for His dispositions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Diodochos of Photike- On Grace and Human Strivings for Perfection

When people are baptized , grace hides her presence until the soul makes a decision.  When the whole person has turned to the Lord, then with an unspeakable tenderness she reveals her presence to the heart.  Then once again she awaits a movement of the soul while allowing the darts of the devil to reach even its inmost senses,  in order that the soul may seek God again with more fervour and humility. Then if that person begins to make progress by keeping the commandments and calling continually on the Lord Jesus, the fire of divine grace spreads also to the outward motions of the heart. As a result the arrows of the devil fall short and hardly  scratch the vulnerable part of the soul any ore.  Finally when  the fighter contains all the virtues, and especially the most complete renunciation, grace enlightens the whole person with the deepest  feeling, engendering an ardent love for God.  From then   on  the arrows of the devil are quenched without touching the bodily senses. For the wind of the Spirit that is blowing within the heart destroys  the darts of the devil while they are still in flight.  However, even one who has reached this stage is sometimes abandoned by God to the malice of the devil, and is left without any light for the spirit , so that this freedom of ours may not be entirely shackled by bonds if grace,...for the human being  ought to be able  still to progress in the spiritual life.  For what we regard  as perfection  is still imperfect in the presence of the richness of God, this God who with all the eagerness of his love longs to be our teacher. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Orthodox Gnosiology- How We Know and What We are Called to Know

Orthodox Gnosiology is not merely an intellectual question, but is also a phenomenological, existential, ontological, personal and mystical one. How can Orthodox theology develop its methodology without reducing itself to a simple philosophical system?

In the beginning was the Word.
And the Word was with God 
and the Word was God. John 1:1

The Incarnation was an empirically verifiable presentation of the Uncreated united to the Creature. The Scriptures state that through the Incarnation the Apostles received full assurance (πλεροφορια) of the empirical and historical sort. But the Incarnation led to the confession of Peter that Jesus Christ was the son of the living God- a revelation that was not made by flesh and blood- a revelation that is of the essence of Orthodox gnosiology. It is the Incarnation that gives the beginning point for a complete Orthodox gnosiology. Orthodox gnosiology has as its goal the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God that we seek is the experiential kind, and of the kind that brings certitude to the whole of our being. Christ stated the goal of our knowledge when he said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” . Christ is for us the Truth that we seek to know. Christ is the way by which we can know the Truth and the end of Truth is that we ‘come’ to the Father. Orthodox gnosiology began in the historical and empirical, visible, revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostles. It is the Apostolic kerygma, delivered to the ends of the earth, the foolishness of preaching, that brings to the rest of us the possibility of experiential knowledge of the unknowable God, the Father. Orthodox gnosiology is rooted in revelation; it is also subset of Christology for it by the Son that we ‘come’ to the Father.
Incarnation as Interpretive Key for Gnosiology-
Some say that it is the Incarnation that makes theology possible. However, it must be remembered that Scripture itself is theology in that it is the record of men’s experiences with God. It is according to Christ that we interpret the Old Testament. It is according to Christ that we interpret our lives lived in Him today. Thus, the Incarnation is also the interpretive key for a sound gnosiology. 1 John 4:2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God”. Therefore, while the Incarnation was the supreme manifestation of God, it is also the interpretative key, and touchstone of validity for all past and future interior experiences ,and exterior expressions, of God. Experience of communion with God begins within and leads to the confession of the Incarnation. Experience of communion with God comes through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The inner experience of God is the fullness of assurance that Scripture states that we are called to receive. Both the inner and outer assurance of Truth co-inhere in Orthodox gnosiology. The fact of the Holy Spirit as the mediator of immediate perception roots Christian gnosiology also within the domain of Pneumatology.
Scripture and Gnosiology-
The Apostles received the fullness of revelation of Jesus Christ and passed this fullness on to us through Holy Tradition, the supreme expression of which is Holy Scripture. There is a reciprocal relationship between the exterior experience of Scripture and the interior experience of its existential reality. Scripture in its declaration, allegories, metaphors, its interpretation through the Fathers, the Church, the icons, Councils, and so forth, shape our mind, to the end that we may ‘come to the Father’ Enter into union with God the Father; experience Communion. The Scriptures are phenomenological descriptions of that which was perceived by the one to whom the revelation was given. The capacity of language to shape our minds is also a notion that is almost lost in modern thought; modern thought tends to think of minds shaping words. Orthodoxy lies closer to the realism of ancient philosophy in this respect that the symbolic representation of words are ‘linked’ to universals of some sort; universals that orient us towards ultimate reality, get us facing in the right direction so we can see the unseen.
The Scriptures then, as the self- expression of the OT and New Testament Church, are pivotal in Orthodox gnosiology. Scripture is the definitive theology of the Church, in the true Orthodox sense of the meaning of theology. It is the self-expression of the Church that has come out of its prayer and experience of God. It is the record of its noumenosity. Orthodox thinking, in its conflict with Protestant nominalism, has tended to emphasize polemically the existential, personal, and noetic aspects of our knowledge of God in the interest of defending it teleologically. The dogma of the Incarnation aids in presenting our gnosiology related to the whole of the analogiai fidei - to the internal unity balance and fullness of the Entire content of the Tradition to which we have been made heirs. The Incarnation spares us of the temptation to a Nestorian separation of knowledge so that the Scripture is fully human but totally distinct from the Divine, or else we so absorb Scripture into the Divine that we become gnosiological Monophysites. Many Protestants take comfort in the Fathers because they were steeped in Scripture, and when one examines the Fathers, their writings are steeped in Scripture. This is as it ought to be. Full assurance came historically and empirically to the Apostles through Incarnation and their testimony was recorded in Scripture. On the other hand, the deeper intent of the historic and empirical witness to the Truth is the experiential knowledge that comes to us subjectively, noetically, in metaphysical ecstasy. It is the Word that comes through Scripture that conditions us for life and for the progressive acquisition of the Spirit. The Spirit, on the other hand, brings the intuitive, internal , existential , subjective and noetic experience of God , Who gives us ears to ‘hear’ the Word.
Both Word and Spirit shape our minds for the knowledge of the Father. Orthodox Gnosiology is therefore Trinitarian. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” . The Father seeks worshippers, the Son reveals the Father, and the Spirit manifests the Son Who is the Father’s Express Image. The Church gives testimony to this through the feast day of Theophany, the baptism of Jesus Christ, when the worship of the Holy Trinity was made manifest, and Transfiguration, when the Apostles according to their capacity, received the immediate perception of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Gnosiology and the Church- the Apostles who received the worship of the Holy Trinity were commissioned to build the Church of Christ. Some have said that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the extension of the Incarnation. It was to the OT patriarchs that the manifestation of the Uncreated began, and it was to Israel in particular, and to his seed and through his seed, which the manifestation continued until the fullness of time when God spoke to us through his Son. In Orthodox gnosiology, it is the Church as the spiritual continuation and fulfillment of Israel that is the certain locus of God’s self- manifestation, and of the prophets that speak of its experience. It is within the Church, likewise that God’s self-disclosure continues.  How could it be otherwise, given that St. Paul calls the Church, the'ground and pillar of the truth', in I Timothy 3:15?  The Church is like the image of the Wardrobe in the C.S. Lewis fantasy novels, the Narnia Series. The Wardrobe to all appearances was just that a wooden closet that held various items of outerwear, but to those who were inwardly prepared, entry into the Wardrobe would transport the person to another world. The Wardrobe was not common wood, but was made of Wood that had come from the other worlds and served as a portal into them. For us the Church is like the Wardrobe- the Church, to all appearances is folks, and hierarchy, and doctrines, and ritual, and history and habits. But to those who are prepared , entry is gained to a world much more vast. The inner is much greater than the outer. Orthodox gnosiology is therefore related to ecclesiology.
Gnosiology and Theosis- The Church calls all to the possibility of knowing God. The nous, according to Orthodox teaching, is the organ of noetic knowing, is called the eye of the heart ,was darkened at the Fall, and was scattered into the body, into enslavement with the imaginations and the passions. Fundamental to the recovery of our ability to know ontologically, is the healing of the nous, its deliverance from the darkness of the passions, its restoration to the heart, so that we be restored to likeness of God- that we may know Him- attain Theosis. The healing of the nous that both comes through and enables Theosis, must be existentially grasped. A decision from within one must be made to actualize the possibility of the knowledge of God. A Kierkegaardian leap must be made from the knowledge about God, to the existentially realized personalist perception of Him. Theosis begins with the stage of purification that is accomplished through obedience to the commands of Christ. We are prepared for the beatific knowledge through the changes wrought in us through, or obedience to, the Gospel- the qualities elicited in us and described by the Lord in the Beatitudes of the Gospels enable us to ‘perceive’ God; to’ know’ Him; to ‘inherit’ the Kingdom and to ‘see’ Him. Theosis continues through illumination during which the eye of our heart begins to perceive the inner essences of created things- e.g., God’s action in history in His Providence, the disclosure of the Divine Glory that occurs in Nature and Scripture, the fact of the personhood of men made in the Image of God, and proceeds to glorification.
Theosis is the process of Orthodox gnosiology and dogmatizes that God is unknowable in His essence, but is nevertheless, knowable. The resolution of the apparent antinomy has come about by the Patristic distinction between the Essence of God which his transcendent unknowability, and His Energies, which is the immanent knowability of God outside of His Essence. Nevertheless, since both the Energies and Essence are uncreated, Orthodox gnosiology insists that the experience that we have of the Energies is ineffable and transrational. St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, “…it is impossible to express God and yet more impossible to conceive Him….” Therefore, Orthodox gnosiology insists that revelation, formally defined, is not in words and concepts and propositions; but that they are the partial and incomplete attempts to point to the experience to which we are all called.
Gnosiology and Prayer- The energetic act of God that brings us the knowledge of Him, involves apophasis in prayer- apophasis is the process of negating any thought that the words and concepts about God are any more than preparatory to the revelation, and consists of the description of God only in terms of what He is not, and finally leaving all concepts including apophatic negations behind, to the end of immediate perception, not mediated by any created entity, not a philosophical contemplation, not talk about God, but Communion with God.- a communion that occurs hesychastically, in silence. Through Theosis, impelled by prayer, guided by cataphatic and apophatic theology- one is introduced into the noetic knowledge of God,. Thus there is an ontological unfolding of knowledge to the nous according to its capacity and the increase of its capacity is linked to the acquisition of the Spirit through prayer. Orthodox gnosiology therefore depends upon the progressive ontological change that comes about as we, as in a mirror, behold the glory of the Lord, are transformed by that vision, from glory to glory.
Orthodox Gnosiology and Philosophy- Philosophers have debated the subject of knowledge from the beginning. Christians have observed the philosophical struggle as well. St. Paul said that the Jews demand a sign and the Greeks knowledge but we preach Christ crucified. In another place the apostle Paul warns against the corruptions of philosophy according to the elements of the world, according to the principality and power of the air and not according to Christ. There is a pursuit of knowledge that goes to a dead end, the Apostle says it is described as philosophy, and it involves the use of the rational faculty ignorant of the revelation that is in Jesus Christ. St. Pavel in Pillar and Ground of the Truth actually pits rationality against reason in this way. It is the pursuit of ontological knowledge apart from Revelation.
Christ said “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” The St. John saith, that salvation is the knowledge of God. For modern men and some of the theologies they hold, truth tends to be propositions, if it is anything at all. This has to do with the ascendancy of nominalism in the West with its denial of universals or essences on the one hand and the skepticism relatively speaking of Thomist Catholicism that denies direct experience of God and in its places puts created grace. Orthodoxy insists that the Divine Essence of God is unknowable, but is knowable according to His Energies, sustaining Creation and interacting personally with his rational creatures. We find ourselves immediately distanced from Thomism. The distinction of the energies from the essence of God collides with the notion of actus purus. The infinite distance between the Created and the uncreated overthrows the analogia entis and the possibility of knowing God through his energies saves us from the prison of knowing him indirectly through created grace or static created vision. The philosophic possibility of understanding the Ultimate does not exist within Orthodox gnosiology. Skepticism concerning knowledge has also been on the ascendent in the west since the time of Ockham, continued through Descartes, Hume, Hobbs . Left to his own devices mankind cannot be certain that it knows anything nor that it is constructed to perceive reality. And in its end stages post-modern man is following the logical conclusions of his nominalism, and using language quite persuasively to say that words mean ultimately nothing. For Christians of the Orthodox stripe however, the fact that God made us to know Him gives us confidence that we may have both knowledge of God and the certainty of it for it is the purpose for our creation. The fact of revelation delivers us from the nominalist imprisonment within our rational faculty, from the skepticism of our being incapable of knowing reality itself, ontologically, and from the solipsistic denial of language and a medium of shared participation in knowledge.
It is within the Church that the possibility of the knowledge of God is preserved. The positive content of the Gospel revealed in Jesus Christ and as summarized within the Holy Tradition serve as boundaries to the wrong directions either of philosophy or religion. The Tradition defines for us the uses of language and the word and reason and its proper limits in the pursuit of the knowledge of God. The apophatic theology of the Church marks the boundary of our empirical and rational knowledge about God and causes conceptual implosion at its boundaries thereby enabling us to go forth into the Communion that is there beyond our reason and our feelings and our senses. The most profound participation in Orthodox gnosiology is the reception of Holy Communion. Orthodox Tradition teaches that because ultimate reality is personal it is communion and not thought, that is the essential transaction of knowing. Communion is structurally built on mystery and antinomy that forces us in our Communion with the Personal God to abandon our thoughts about Him in order that we may be in Communion with Him. The ultimate experience of Divine gnosiology is to be had in a Communion that structurally cannot be done alone. Orthodox gnosiology is ecclesial., and participation in the Church is essential if our gnosiology is to preserved from the corruptions of insufficient knowledge
In the final analysis the only way to avoid slipping into a philosophy of gnosiology rather than ontological, experiential gnosiology is to pursue knowledge after the manner of counsel of Evagrius- “ to pray is to be a theologian, and to be a theologian is to pray.” One may shun philosophical systems of the secular variety; one may eschew the Thomist realism of the Catholics and their structural commitment to not knowing God, yet if one does not pray, then one’s Orthodox gnosiology becomes a philosophy and not a way of life, within the Truth.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Have you read Francis Schaeffer?  Well, back in the seventies I was very interested in  what he wrote. There was one thing he pointed out to me that stuck.  He said, "If the God of the Christians did not exist in Trinity, I would still be an unbeliever."

He explained that his conviction was based on the idea of God as love.  God is love; God is also free under no compulsion, nor any necessity to do or think or behave in any way.  Because God is love, if He did not exist as multiple persons in one Godhead, then for God to be able to love, He would be under 'necessity' to create a creature to be the object of His love.  The idea that God is free would be sullied.  It is therefore 'necessary' that God exist as more than one person in order that He be free. Of course to use the word 'necessary' with respect to God is in itself fraought with difficulty.

Later, in reading St. Pavel Florensky, martyr of the Boshevik era, it came to me why God would of 'necessity' need to be a Triad rather than a Dyad.  If God existed as two persons, say Father and Son, then he would have the Son to love, but He would not be in principle free to chose the Son to love. He would only have the Son as His object of love.  however, with the Three, The Father not only has another to love, but is, in principle free to love the other or not because he always has the choice of the third where his love may be expressed.

More digressions on the Trinity.  Another foundational principle of the Godhead driven home principally in Orthodoxy is that the distance between God and the Creature is infinite, so that if a man can conceive of God as He is according to His inner being, His essence, then it is not God at all but a creation of human thought and reason, a part of creation, an idol.  The idea of the Trinity cannot be understand with reason or human thought, for the idea of the Trinity is 3=1, something we cannot comprehend. It is an antinomy. If we have a God who can be explained in his inner being in rational terms, He is not the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Paul and Peter, and Pavel Florensky- but is the God of our own imaginings, the God of the philosophers and not the God who is God. Vladimir Lossky makes this point in his fantastic book,  The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
Some of Judaic orientation may remember the Shema, " the Lord thy God is One God", but the Hebrew word for One in this case, 'echod', means a composite unity (  see:  http://www.thoughts.com/journeyman/blog/the-mystery-of-the-trinity-49247/  ,   and http://www.thoughts.com/journeyman/blog/the-mystery-of-the-trinity-49247/ , and http://www.thoughts.com/journeyman/blog/the-mystery-of-the-trinity-49247/ )  The idea of God as Trinity began in the Old Testament, but was not fully revealed until the New, in the Baptism of Christ.  As the troparion goes,  "When Christ was baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest."

Another way of saying this is that God in His transcendence exists in infinite distance from the creature.  And this brings us to another antinomy concerning the Godhead, that is chiefly in a repository of the Orthodox East.  While God is utterly unknowable in His Essence , He is profoundly knowable in His Energies.  The Energies of God being defined as the existence of God truly as Himself but outside of His Essence.
This is a distinction critical to thinking Christianity, if we wish to avoid all sorts of theological errors.  So here we have an antinomy- God is not knowable and God is knowable.  How both could be we have not a clue.  Here again is an antinomy that exists in the nature of the Godhead and for me, is an ,aha, moment- here is the God who is beyond all thought and sense experience , for the only way to talk about him is through the mystery of antinomy.  Here is the Gospel of the Cross, calling for us to die to our reasoning brain as we move beyond the cosmos that we can comprehend towards union with Him whom we cannot. 

At the high level of Western theology, the mark of this has been missed, principally because the West, Catholic and Protestant,  begin in their Theology with the Unity of the Godhead in the One Essence common to all three of the Persons.  the unity is then an impersonal absolute, not really much different from  Buddhism or Unitarianism and certainly within the realm of the thinking of philosophers and not the God of the antinomies, beyond all thought and sense experience.  This tendency reduces the three persons of the Trinity into modes or expressions of the One Essence, and the relationships between them become one of the categories of Aristotelean logic, that of relationship, and so become subject to philosophical manipluations, and, once again, is not the God Who Is.  Scripture and the Orthodox East preserve the Unity of the Godhead in the Father, who is the source both of the Son and of the Spirit, both without beginning, and also of the Essence which is imparted to the Son and the Spirit as well.  The modes of generation of the Son and the Spirit, begetting and proceeding are not relationships but simply indicate their being distinct persons. what begetting is and proceeding is, is not know. It exists in mystery.  So, the Father who is the Source, is the source of the Unity. The Unity is Personal.  And our calling then is to participate in the Communion of love that Exists between Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

Consequently our prayer life and our experience must be that of the Trinity in some way.  The experience of God is possible because, while He is unknowable in His Essence, He is knowable in His Energies and assimilable- the Energies being the same thing as Grace, or Divine Enabling,and also being that aspect of Divine Nature, spoken of by the Apostle Peter in his epistle as that of which we must become 'partakers'.   The economic mode of the Trinity, how God in His Divine Energies, comes to us, is that the Spirit manifests the Son, who in turn shows us the Father.  (Economia, in the East, is talk about God in His Theophanies or manifestations; whereas Theologia, is the thought about Him concerning His Essence)
This means that our prayer experience to be fully Christian must also be an experience of the Trinity.  When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Orthodox song goes, the worship of the Trinity was manifest.
When we first are drawn by the Gospel, we see Jesus, in all his incarnate glory, and then we see His passion, his death, resurrection and ascension.  And If we get it, we get a personal relationship to Jesus, enabled by the Spirit.  Road to Emmaus.  But a funny thing happens after forty days. Christ ascends to the Father.  For us who have been baptized into Christ, this returning to the Father, must become in prayer an existential reality. For the Son is always returning to the Father, and in Him it is His purpose for us to return to the Father as well. Well, a return to the Father is a return towards the Essential existence of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and the practical consequence is that such a return is a return into a 'Stillness.' the Son is ever taking us back to the Stillness of the Father.  And there we have some classical mystics camping out-  The Unknowing-  and so forth, of a few.  Also the comment by St. Ignatius the Godbearer in the First century, "those who have truly acquired the word of Jesus must go on to know His stillness so as to be perfect."

This is the "Be Still" of the Psalms. It is the Secret Place of the Most High.  There are 'places' in the Most High that we experience before entering the Stillness, but They are the experiences of His energies- of the release of forgiven sins, of comforts in distress, of consolations, of feelings of love and Divine Providences.  But the Stillness is an all together different place.
Since the Stillness is Beyond Word it is also beyond the experience of most who must have everything spelled out in detail in Scripture; it does not lend itself easily to words, and so usually exists within the Tradition of the Ancient churches- chiefly within the monastic Traditions.  the Coptics have it.  The Catholics sort of have it, in a distorted way, but it is there with some problems.  the Orthodox have it.  Yet Scripture itself calls us to obey the Traditions whether by Word or by Epistle.  And point out that the Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth.  In fact, Christ never promised a New Canon upon which to base anything. He promised a Church, and an indefectible Church because it was to be His Body.  It's inerrance, therefore was not because there was a Book over it to keep it in check, nor a Pope over it to keep it in check, but a Holy Spirit within it to keep it in all the Truth and a Communion with the Blood of Christ that would keep it within the Truth- The Church would be kept by Communion with the Life of God.  Since the Truth is a Person, the Incarnate One, His Body is the only acceptable locus where all the Fullness of Truth exist and be preserved.

So the Tradition of the Stillness that is a vital part of Christian prayer and experience is an open secret that is preserved amongst those dedicated chiefly to practicing it- the monks.  Therefore, for me it is a great tragedy when any Christian Body does not have monks, engaged full time in prayer.  Luther rejected the monks and if you have ever been around Lutherans, or studied their history, it is so terribly obvious.  In the 19th Century there was only one pastor who excelled in the mystical life, Blumhardt was his name, if I remember correctly.  And in reaction to German scholasticism, head religion, emerged pietism, as a reaction to dead Church life, which morphed later into revivalism and into evangelicalism of the mid Twentieth Century and now is find another metamorphosis in the spiritual formation movement which is a reformation of evangelical piestism, never find its proper incarnation in the life of a Church whose very mode of being nurtures the mystical and gives it objective boundaries, and shapes properly the mind of those who yearn for the mystical depths, so that their seekings and explorations do not go astray but return to the ever-renewing life of the Trinity.

Then these thoughts.  The 'problem' in the Catholic West as far as communicating about its msyticism exist because the scholasticism of St. Thomas who continued to insist along with St. Augustine that grace was a creature, thereby removing from us the very possibility of the experience of God. In, in addition to that, he shifted the organ of revelation to the intelligence, the thinking aspects of the brain, rather than the "Orthodox" nous, the eye of the heart, bringing theology down into the domain of philosophy,rather than those things written by those who pray.  Although they talk about their experience it is a distinct thought world from their theologizing so it seems to me.  And as the evangelicals import spiritual techologies into their Chritianity, chiefly from the mystical Traditions of the West, they will eventually come up short attempting to explain what is going on, and there will be the inevitable conflicts as those with pockets of Orthodox doctrine collide with those who are following their experience and without the words or tradition that make the two a whole.  So, I see, for example, conflicts on the ACU Facebook page, people decrying the wholesale capitulation of ACU to the Spiritual Formation movement and resorting to 'lighthouse trails' sort of materials to rebut the tendency.  Lord have mercy.
The whole problem is the problem of trying to transplant one Organ of the ancient Church into a body that is not complementary to it.  It is, in fact, the whole problem of the tribulation of Western Christianity.  The Incarnational nature of the Church was forever lost at the time of the Great Schism/Reformation event and everhereafter exists in a paroxysm of agony suspended from an over-active reasoning brain, and a lost wandering nous seeking somewhere to land. Lord, have mercy

The Answer

I grew up in the Church of Christ, and believed what I was told. I still believe much of what I was told. I was told that baptism is necessary for salvation.  At age 11 I believed that I would go to hell because I was not baptized and so I went forward and was baptized.  I believed that Jesus had died for my sins and had risen from the dead.  When I was baptized I remember that my first thought was 'is that all there is to this?'  It was a prayer and I did not know it.  As far as I knew, that was it. I tried to keep the commands of the Bible and embrace its doctrines. 

When I was a teenager, I tried to convince people of my position.  I told my chemistry teacher who was the wife of an Episcopal priest, that salvation required that one be baptized by immersion. She looked at me quizically, and said nothing, but the look on her face seemed to be saying, now , as I think about it,  'what question is this kid answering, and how can I respond at all since he does not even know the questions that need to be asked?"  I also showed film strips, the Jewell Miller filmstrips to a man studying to be a Presbyterian pastor at the local Presbyterian seminary.  He made polite comments that totally bypassed the doctrinal points I was wanting to drive home.

I suffered a lot , and after a while and a period where I tried to be an atheist I had an adult conversion, and it was a conversion into the experience of the grace of God, and the dimension of the Holy Spirit, and the realm of prayer.  For a while, I joined the evangelicals I now hung out with in relegating baptism to a symbol, and also made the baptism in the Holy Spirit a second experience in the life of a believer, one accompanied, necessarily, by speaking in tongues.  The whole experience of grace and of the life of the Holy Spirit and of the dimension of prayer was so breath-takingly transforming, that I discounted everything that had gone before. Worship became emotion-charged and vigorous.   Now I would try to convince people to have a personal relationship to Jesus, and for those that had such a relationship, to provoke them to have a baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
In my enthusiasm there were a few that took me up on it.  Not very many, but a few.  The lady in the elevator. The guy buying a stereo from me.  The lady who would become my wife.  and Joel, who I prayed for and it came out in tongues and it was in Hebrew, and it was Jesus talking to him, and Joel, the secular Jew, became Joel the completed Christian Jew.
But, for the most part, there remained unanswered questions, and persistent personal spiritual struggles that did not yield themselves to Quiet times, and Scripture reading, and to tongues, and enthusiastic worship, and the utter confusion as to the interpretation of Scripture, and the nagging thought that things I had left behind, somehow, had their place in the full scheme of things.

In the midst of all of this, I was dragged to the conclusion that I had missed some very big aspects of Scripture and of Christianity, and I prayed to find the Catholic Church.  I was not big enough to understand the breadth of the faith on my own, and there had to be a Church, somewhere, that God had put on earth to express the fullness of the Faith.
I wound up becoming Eastern Orthodox. Baptism was now put back into the formula, and yet it was also with grace and the work of the Spirit, and a method for growth in grace.  I knew about the Methodists but despite all my years of looking around, had not grasped the method of growth in Christ.  In Orthodoxy, we had hesychasm, with its pursuit of unceasing prayer, that one might enter the unceasing 'memory' of God and so grow in Theosis, becoming God's by grace.  At the heart of this, no longer was speaking in tongues, and baptisms in the Spirit, but ascetic spiritual struggle, outward stillness (hesychasm), and the pursuit of unceasing prayer chiefly through the "Jesus Prayer", that would eventuate in a series of transitions so that God would live in our life more and more.  So now, the answer was, and is, 'the Jesus Prayer'.  But the Jesus Prayer, not without context- with the context of the Church Orthodox, whose very life and organization worked integrally with the Prayer to take us ever deeper and deeper into God.
There still existed the 'personal relationship', but it had been 'rounded out.' We were now called to a relationship in and with and through the Holy Trinity.  Prayer and communion with God that used to be a friend-to-friend chat with Jesus,  transitioned into a participation in the very life of the Trinity.  Hearing the word of Jesus was very important as an evangelical, but St. Ignatius the God-bearer pointed out in the First Century that those who 'have truly received the word of Jesus must go on to know the Silence so as to be perfect.'   Jesus, who is revealed by the Spirit, brings us into the Stillness of the Father, deep within our hearts. The experience deep within the heart corresponds to the seating of Christ in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father at the time of His ascension.  So, we experience the converting work of the Spirit and undertake to keep the commands of God; next we see and hear Jesus in our hearts.  Truly receiving the word of Jesus eventuates in our entering into the Stillness of the Father. From there we grow on up towards fully participation in the life of God by grace; we grow towards becoming Gods by grace. Note that I say by grace, for it is not according to nature, but by the gift of grace.  
So, what of Baptism that I believed in as a child? It is not irrelevant. It is the very conduit of grace; it is the grace that initiates Christian life. But it is a grace that must be opened by obedience, through prayer, through keeping the commands, by hungering for God, through sufferings, through the Holy Spirit.  What of  the crisis experience of being 'baptized in the Holy Spirit?'  It is not irrelevant. The whole Christian struggle is one of the pursuit of the Holy Spirit. It is a process through which we acquire progressively more and more of the Spirit. It is not a one time crisis experience but a way of life that may be punctuated by crises that are met by new infusions of the Spirit in varying degrees of novelty.  But I would suggest that the Orthodox focus on the process, leaving the crises in the hands of God, is more sound, and safer, and is even what the more sound and safe Pentecostals, charismatics and deeper life evangelicals would state as well.What of the personal relationship to Jesus? It must be there, and there are many Orthodox, mostly ones who've grown up in the Church, who have missed this all together and it leaves them with a very outward Faith. 

That having been said, I must say that the Jesus Prayer and the pursuit of unceasing prayer, the fruit of which is an unceasing communion with God, is much more to the heart of the matter, and has had more power in my life than any of the other emphases or focuses. Adding to the life of prayer, to the personal relationship to Jesus, if you will, the dimension of the Stillness of the Father, that comes by the prayer of the heart, brings to Christian life, and especially that of Westerners, aspects of Christian faith that have been almost totally lost to us.   It makes sense for the Orthodox Church has been around from the beginning and has two thousand years of experience with this thing called Christianity and, if It is listened to, will save many of us from much wasted effort in re-inventing the wheel. Although I am expecting that all of us must discover through many tribulations, the richness of the Faith once delivered, for ourselves.
So, I think of the Scripture,  forbid not to speak in tongues, and in another place, desire the best gifts.  Baptism is necessary for salvation, unless God decides to do it differently- He is perfectly free to do as He pleases.  But if one camps out there, one will perish, for Baptism is the Portal into the life but not the consummation of it. A personal relationship to Jesus is vital, but the worship and experience we have been called to is a full Trinitarian experience of God.  Crisis experiences of the Spirit may be life-changing, but they are nothing but clanging symbols and will bring great delusion, unless incarnated in a life that is devoted to unceasing communion with God, relative lack of hold on the world and its trinkets, and a moving forward towards full union with God that only a life centered around unceasing prayer can bring.  (For a good treatment of spiritual growth I point any reader to the link to the right to Metropolitan Jonah's sermon on the same.)
What then of my past ecclesiastical affections and their emphases?  In the Church of Christ we insisted that the Church was one, and that there was one Church, and that we were It.  What of this claim?  Well, Scripture and 1500 years of Christian history suggest that the Church is and ought to be a Visible Unity.  But, unlike the Church of Christ, and the other Campbellite groups, the Church did not disappear so as to require 'restoration' or even 'reformation'.
The Church has always persisted in unity according to Christ's promise, and a visible unity, according to His prayers, all of which are answered.  The Church as the Church, for the most part, departed from the full Faith at the time of the Great Schism, and even more so at the time of the Reformation, even that it is to be admitted that much in the way of Orthopraxy of the Faith was recovered piecemeal in the time of the Reformation, if not the Doctrine or the Ecclesiastical Unity of the  Faith.  So, on that score I was sincere, and entirely wrong.
However, that does not mean that I was not of the Church even though I was not in the Church at that time. Grace extends far beyond the boundaries of the Visible Church, and Christ spoke of those who while not with Him, since they were not against Him, were 'of' Him.
What then of the prevailing Evangelical belief that the things they call 'ordinances' are symbols of the faith. I would suggest that this is a reversion to Judaistic thinking.  The worship of the Old Testament was in symbol- in type and shadow. But with Christ, the fullness has come, and worship is no longer in symbol or type.  Baptism for example, in the epistle of Peter, is called an anti-type- that is something, a reality, a grace, to which an Old Testament type, in this case, Noah's escape by the Flood, pointed to.  And because of the Incarnation, Communion is not a symbol but a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ- is a sacrament or mystery built upon and confessing the Incarnation of Grace, begun in the Virginal Conception, and continued in the Mystery of the Church, the body of Christ.
Though there be many who dispute it, there was much Holy Spirit reality in the pentecostal/charismatic movement.  Because it was a Spirit movement outside the confines of Orthodoxy it was also subject to bastardizing, and to counterfeiting, and to debasing.  But there was much reality there, and I learned things there, that I probably would never have learned or experienced had I grown up and continued only in the Orthodox Church.  With them and the missionary evangelicals I learned the practical usage of day to day authority of the power of the devil.  I have seen real exorcisms. I have found such training valuable in the raising of my children and in the maintenance of my own spiritual health. Tongues was a great help from time to time, and seemed to pump prime as it were, my prayers with the understanding, and would often bring me peace in a way that other spiritual techonologies could not.  There were times when I was led to interpret tongues, and to prophecy in meetings and it was real.  There was also a lot of flim flam, most of it well intentioned, and some of it patently from the evil one.  These things were a part of my Christian life, and were also found in Scripture, though apparently not all of the Churches.  What of this?
It seems to me that the phenomena just described exist more on the frontier of the advance of the Faith; on the mission fields and in newly plowed hearts coming to the Lord.  The flashy miraculous stuff always seems to be taking place out there on the edges of the advance of the Kingdom.  In more established places, the grace and workings of God are more incarnated, and less of the epiphenomenon.  I can still pray in tongues any time I wish, but the 'itch' that needs scratching, is scratched better, with other things.  So, if you are out there and not Orthodox and have no desire to look this way, and your itches are being taken care of with the twigs that are growing nearby, then, praise God, His mercy endures to all generations. But if there is a continued yearning and searching and an itch that persists, then it may be, it just may be, that the Lord is saying to look this way. Maybe there is something this way that will meet you at your point of need, and your point of growth.

The Stillness Must Win Out

     A dear friend, a priest of the Orthodox Church, an anchorite, who has been shut up to prayer for 19 years with Psoriatic Arthritis in 41 joints of his body, said to me concerning prayer, "The silence must win out."  He was repeating to me what has been said concerning prayer since the beginning of the Church and before.  "Be still and know that I am God."  St. Ignatius the God-bearer said, "those who have acquired the word of Jesus, must go on to know His Stillness so as to be perfect."
Yet for many Chrstian life begins with a great burst of emotion.  When one is awakened to a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, has experienced the forgiveness of sins, has begun to feel the Energies of God vivifying his soul and body,  in the Protestant and evangelical West, one feels very drawn, not into silence, but great emotional excitement and celebration and all that goes with it these days-  praise choruses, guitar Liturgies,  emotion- filled preaching, dancing in the aisles, and so forth.  This is the common response.  Yet, as reinforcing as these things are to early Christian life, there is an inherent roadblock in them as well, if the great Saints of the ages are to believed, yes, and even if Scripture is to be believed as well.
The early experience of Christian life is often loaded with feeling, and the structures that support those stages of Christian life support that and institutionalize that.  The experience of the Energies of God in the early stages are but a preparation for a deepening of ones inner life- and that preparation for entry into the the Stillness that is in the heart.
Early Christian life is usually characterized by a real sense of the forgiveness of sins and of  the experience of the voice of the Lord in the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  Yet the eye of the understanding (Eph 1:18), called the 'nous' in the classical prayer literature of the Church, is still not yet at the place where it needs to be.
The nous, which is the subtle attention of our souls, is still an exile from the heart, and  needs to find its way back.  The very songs and styles of worship that often accompany the early stages of Christian growth, send the nous in the wrong direction- they send the nous out into the feelings, or if the person is intellectually inclined, out into the thoughts, neither of which is the place that the nous needs to recover.  The nous needs to find its way back into the heart, in the place where the Revelation of the Father takes place. The Spirit is sent into the world to reveal to us Jesus. Jesus who is the Word of God, in turns shows us the Father, in whose Presence we find the great Stillness, which , rather than being any abyss of nothingness,  comes to be experienced as the Home that we had always been exiled from.
The Stillness must win out.  Sufferings and the process of repentance and the process of learning unceasing prayer will enable the young believer, in time, to differentiate his heart and with perseverance, allow his nous to return to the heart.  However, such a process will inevitably lead him out of the forms of worship where he at one time felt comfortable.  He will find himself gradually estranged from them, as he finds himself being progressively called into degrees of stillness.  The pursuit of the Stillness of the heart begins with bodily stillness, putting away the myriad of sensory distractions and activities that draw the nous away from its pursuit of God.
The outer Stillness may be confused for the deeper Stillness of the heart, for it is an image of it, and an anticipation of it and preparatory for it.
I remember in 2006 when I had begun to pray an abridged form of the Hours of Prayer. I talked to a monk and told him of my struggles in keeping the Hours.  He said to me 'you are not there yet.' I am certain he meant that I had not yet found the descent of the nous into the heart and the Stillness. I thought perhaps I had.  I had a similitude of stillness but it was not the stillness of having the descent of the nous into the heart. It was the preparatory forms of outward bodily stillness I had found.  He also talked about experiencing the services on a 'different level', and of praying the Jesus prayer while the Services were going on.    I thought perhaps I knew what he was talking about. I know now that I did not.  At that time I had found my nous, and the process was going on where it was being withdrawn from the senses and the emotions and the thoughts; my nous knew the word of Jesus, His Voice, but had not yet found its way back to the Father.  The Silence had not yet won out.
Orthodox worship is configured so as to assist the descent of the nous into the heart and to call it away from the distractions both of intellectualism and emotionalism.  Orthodox worship forms are configured to help us so that the Silence wins out.
During the years I was a charismatic Christian there was great blessing in the exhuberant and emotion-packed and romantic songs of praise and worship that we sang. But it was also my observation that there was an invisible ceiling in those assemblies that prevented Christian growth.  Everyone seemed to be locked in a spiritual adolescence.  There is great vigor in adolescence; however, its immaturity fails to come up to the high standard of revealing who God is in Christ.
The forms of our worship therefore are not a matter simply of taste, but actually conform us to something, or block our being conformed to something else.  The forms of our worship matter, and that means that Church matters, for It,  the Church, is given to us as the pillar and ground of our growth in Christ.  It was Church that both wrote the Bible and decided which books would be in it and those that would not.  It is within Church that we either experience the icons of the Father in the hierarchy of the Church, and so learn both submission and obedience, and the fruits of that which are blessing and growth.  There is no growth apart from relationship to fathers, to the Father.  Thus, it is not only the worship forms that help to foster or hinder growth in Christ, but also the forms of authority that we have as well.
In the heavenlies, the Father is the Source, from which the Son is eternally begotten, and the Spirit eternally proceeds.  In His humanity the Son of God always submitted His will to the Divine will of the Father.  In the Church, it is in the icons of the Christ, the pastors and the Bishops that we find the locus to submit in Christ to the will of the Father, so fostering our growth. It is not, therefore, a matter of personal taste what sort of Church government we have, but the government must be an icon, an image of the heavenly government, for us to grow. Fathers foster growth.
Out of this also flows an attitude towards the past and those who went before  us.  As we must honor the Fathers in our midst in order to grow, we must also honor the Fathers before us in order to avoid error and to grow as well.  It is the adolescent who stands proudly aloof from the fathers, in his exalted sense of self-worth, judging those who went before him, not having within him the humility that comes from seeing his own imperfections, nor having the experience that causes him to treat all men subject to the human condition to the greatest of benefits of the doubt.
Church matters.  If we would grow and the Stillness win out, we must find ourselves in that which Christ prepared for us to take us on to God.  The Church is the ground and pillar of the Truth.  

Stillness- Be Still and Know That I Am God

Forgive me. I think of the words of St. Pambo, or a variation thereof, "If I cannot help you with my silence, I cannot help you with my words." I put the lie to that by putting my hand to keyboard and purporting to write something that I hope you will read. ............................................................................................................................................................

Accept that as the Silence that Helps. It seems to me that the call to Contemplative Prayer from the West, and the Call to Unceasing Prayer that leads to the descent of the nous (understanding/attention) into the heart (and the Stillness of the Father) are pointing us to the same Thing. The Thing that troubles me in both expressions of the Truth of Centering Prayer and of Hesychasm is that language is so very inadequate to express the profundity of what is being described.
Throughout my childhood in my wakening moments I had the desire to hide in a cave. Oh, I so wanted that cave! But what was it? I did not know. I did not know that the hunger for that cave, that hiddenness, that place of security, corresponded to a Place to which we are all called to resort.
That Place is the Stillness of the Father, to which the Word ever calls us. It is so aptly expressed at the website Contemplative Outreach in its discourse on the Lectio Divina of the Desert Fathers
"In the Trinity, the Eternal Word is always emerging from the infinite silence of the Father and always returning".
The infinite silence of the Father is not the mere cessation of outward and physical bustle and noise, but it is an entering into- into an Unknowing where we find ourselves at home and in the security that we always sought and the communion that we alway desired. Outward stillness is often a necessary precursor to inner Stillness, as the experience of the desert for many Christian ascetics is the necessary precursor for encounter with God. But outer stillness, outward hesychasm is a preparation- a pre-condition for entry into the Divine Stillness.
Such expression finds its roots at the beginning of the Christian Tradition. St. Ignatius the God-bearer said, "those who acquire the word of Jesus must also acquire is stillness so as to be perfect." The Stillness of the Father is no new aspiration of the heart, no aberration of the Christian yearning, but is fully Apostolic, and fully Trinitarian.
Orthodox Psychotherapy puts it so succintly "That is why man, in order to come nearer to God, is not satisfied only to receive His revealed energies but must also advance towards receiving in silence the mystery of His unknowing. It is not enough to hear His word, but one must also advance towards the unhearing of His stillness. This second part leads to perfection, and so the first is presupposed. In fact, as St. Ignatius the Godbearer observed, only `he who has truly acquired the word of Jesus can also hear His stillness, so as to be perfect'. So then the movement of man towards God should not be only a movement of action, but also a movement of hiddenness; it should not only be a witness of confession, but also a witness of silence and stillness"

Hesychasm for Laymen

Metropolitan Jonah recently delivered a message on spiritual growth to our Diocese. He is not only our Metropolitan but locum tenans of the South, and that is us- we Christians here in Atlanta.  In the message he underscored that the spirituality of Hesychasm, is at the heart of  the Orthodox method of spiritual growth, and within or related to hesychasm was the pursuit of unceasing prayer, and particularly aided by the Jesus Prayer. So, in the Orthodox Method, we have hesychasm, the pursuit of unceasing prayer, and the Jesus Prayer.
As I read the offerings of Orthodox on the internet, I find almost nothing of practical value on the practice of hesychasm for laymen.  We read about the hesychasm of the monks and the ascetics, but not much of the layman and it seems like it is almost a territory that we laymen are not able to enter.
Yet I would like to suggest that the Holy Spirit also works with laymen in the pursuit of hesychasm, which is not the pursuit of stillness for itself , but as a means of becoming participants in the Divine Nature.  Hesychasm means Stillness, and what stillness has to do with the pursuit of God is especially difficult for Western Christian expecially since we tend to be so fixed on doing things to advance the Kingdom over Being certain sort of people.  And as Laymen we are busy in the world  having families and jobs and being involved in bunches of activities that keep us- busy.
However, the faith is one faith. There is not the faith for monks and the faith for laymen.  It is all one faith.  Monks are specialists is it true and it is their special calling that keeps alive the vision of prayer and of hesychasm itself. We would be lost without them. Churches that have lost monasticism or have had it sullied by modern trends of social gospel and activism to replace the life of prayer, have suffered an incalculable loss, for it is the monks that have kept the high tradition of prayer, and of stillness alive as a witness to us who do not have the calling or luxury of monastic poverty and givenness to prayer.
So, the Holy Spirit is working in our midst, if we will but listen to the word of Jesus; He is working to call us to hesychasm, to Stillness. The Hesychast interprets Christ's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew to "go into your closet to pray," to mean that he should ignore the senses and withdraw inward. St John of Sinai writes: "Hesychasm is the enclosing of the bodiless mind (nous) in the bodily house of the body." (Ladder, Step 27, 5, (Step 27, 6 in the Holy Transfiguration edition).) {quoted from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Hesychasm } But what is it exactly that we are being called to?  The human personality is deranged by its fall into sin, and as participants in Adam's fall we suffer from this derangement.  On the level of man's psychology the nous of man has lost its primordial focus on the vision of God and has changed its gaze outward into the senses and the thoughts.  Man's nous has been cut off from the Stillness that is the Presence of the Father, and that ought to reside as the Secret Place within each man's heart and be the residing place of each man's nous or spiritual attention or spiritual focus or spiritual eye.
The nous then as the eye of the heart has lost the vision of God and needs to find its way back.  Classical outlines of the spiritual life speak of purgation, illumination and Theosis as the steps back into full union with God.   The call of hesychasm is an aspect of that and involves the weaning of the attention off things that are sinful, of course, but also things  of the world that are not evil, in and of themselves, but are distractions to the real call of our nous and the source of a fundamental derangement and dis-integration of the human personality.  This aspect of hesychasm is outward or bodily hesychasm for it does not yet reach in a conscious way the inner sanctum of the heart, an experience that comes as a consequence of and subsequent to the practice of bodily hesychams.  Outward hesychasm finds its fruition in the eventual descent of the nous into the heart, which is recognized by the experience of a deep inner Stillness that one has not experienced before, no matter how zealous a Christian. One may have experience great relief and peace through forgiveness of sins, and great joy at the Providences of God, and been astute in the perception of the voice of Jesus and the leadings of the Spirit, but those are not the same thing.  As St. Ignatius the God-bearer said, 'those who have really acquired the word of Jesus must go on to know His Stillness so as to be perfect.  "Be Still and know that I am God",  says the Scriptures.  The word of Jesus was sent out into the world and is revealed to the human heart by the Holy Spirit. The word of Jesus in turn, to complete the transaction with the human heart, must necessarily lead us ever back to the Stillness of the Father.
This process is seen in the very work of the Incarnate son of God, who came into the world, who was revealed and believed in, who suffered, died and was buried, and who rose again from the dead. Who, thereafer, ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father.  Such cycle must also be recapitulated in us who belong to Him.  It is three-fold; it is Trinitarian. Scripture speaks of the three stage of Christian life, 'little children, young men, and fathers', writes the Revelator in his epistle.  Little children experience the converting work of the Spirit, young men learn to acquire the word of Jesus and begin to move forward in spiritual victory, and fathers- fathers, know the Father, by having entered the Secret Place of the most high.
Well, back to Western Christianity.  So focused on justification and conversion has been the evangelical movement and so hostile in a reactive sort of way to anything of Tradition that was not explicitly spelled out in Scripture, the Western Christian man for the most part lost the aspect of the Faith that is the descent of the nous into the heart, the seating of the soul in heavenly places at the right hand of the Father, and has confused aspects of Christian life for the secret place that were not precisely what the Christian Tradition had in mind.
Even the leading thinkers of Christian formation, such as Dallas Willard and Richard Foster do not seem to have gotten a clear bead on it, even though Dallas Willard's books on spiritual life are some of the best out there, period. 
Well, we've lost our way.  How do we find our way as laymen back into a life that has practical hesychasm?
The more gross aspects has to do with obedience to the commands of Jesus.  Decades ago the word of Jesus to me  'thou shalt not look on a woman to lust after her in your heart' became a powerful focus in the organization of my inner life in a hesychastic direction. Young men, might I say all men of the normal orientation, spend a lot of time looking and lusting, and the Holy Spirit spends a lot of time, if we are attentive in reproving such behavior.  If one pays attention to those promptings of the Spirit one will begin to get an inner sense of the item of human personality which is called the 'nous' traditionally and which will eventually descend into the heart into the stillness of the Father if we give heed to the word of Jesus.  It worked for me that way.  The constant vigilence, guarding the heart, by not giving my eyes or my thoughts over to lust, had a way of giving shape to my nous, even at the time, I did not, as an evangelical, have a name for it, and would have called it my spirit.  It formed a habit of inner possession of my nous, as it were, and the rudiments of governing my mind that also has bearing on the hesychastic life.
Any number of other commands could have that same effect on one's inner life.  Thou shalt not covet.  Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.  In everything give thanks.  When you speak, speak as the oracles of God.  All these commands, when heeded and practiced have the habit of forming our inner life so that we gain a spiritual sense of our nous, a constant inner spirituality before God.  Yet these are aspects of outward hesychasm  and as salutory as they are, are also preparation for the things of God that are to come along the way.
The things I have mentioned have to do with aspects of thought and behavior that involve sin. there is also the aspect of bodily hesychasm that has to do with things that are not sin, in and of themselves, but things that preoccupy our attention and keep us from being the little Christs, the participants in the Divine nature, the Gods we are called to be by grace.  And we poor Americans are so beset with these things.  Our whole continent is one big, grand theme park for the titillation of our senses, the entertainment of our bodies, the satiation of our appetites, the comfort of our bodies, the distraction of our attentions- away from the emptiness that exists within at the core of our being.  Imagine being by yourself in a room with no computer, no television, no radio, no magazine, no art on the wall and no window to look out of, for three hours.  You are left to yourself. When you are left to yourself, would that be a miserable and painful experience? Is there so little down there deep within that if you were left with yourself alone, that it would be painful and miserable?
For most of us the answer is, yes, and for that reason we keep up the distractions of thought or of sense or of activity, to avoid the inner emptiness.
Yet that is not what we are supposed to be inwardly. We are supposed to be, deep down within our heart, a glorious Temple, wherein exists all the angels of heaven, the souls of just men made perfect, and the on-going communion of the Holy Spirit.  There is supposed to be a Place down there where there is the perfect home for our souls to rest.  That is where Jesus proposes to take us if we give heed to his word, yet it is the ignorance of that place by most of us in the West that keeps us frenetic in our activities, frenetic in our worship, frenetic in our sensory stimulation, and with lives often shattered. 
The Place that we seek is the citadel of our hearts, where, for the Christian dwells the Godhead, where is the Stillness of the Father, which is our native Home.  Hesychasm is a help to getting there. But, as I have said, the Holy Spirit will also work, not only on those sins that distract  us, but also the things that are not sins in themselves, but which also distract us from being who we ought to be in the Godhead, by keeping our spiritual attttention, our nous, the eye of our heart pre-occupied.  The list of these sort of things is legion.  The most common ones are the most obvious. Television, radio, computer time, Ipods, stereos, entertainment events, games, sports, culinary preoccupation, preoccupations with comforts and so forth.  If one is listening to the Spirit, one will notice that the Spirit is calling us away from inordinate time on the internet, from time soaking up television, from ceaseless business pursing this or that activity, even from the ceaseless spiritual activities that sometimes draw us away from where we ought to be.  I mention the Spirit as the one who does the work, but it must be said, that the Tradtion points to a spiritual father who will point the way.  Unfortunately, we have so few spiritual fathers that have found their way, that most of us are left to our own devices, to our readings, and to the sense of the voice of the Spirit that we have hopefully acquired through the years.  There are very few starets, spiritual elders, to lead the way. But we must take heart, Ezekiel 34 tells us when the spiritual leaders fail us the Lord will be the shepherd and bishop of our souls.  Fear not, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom, says the Good Shepherd.
Pay attention to the subtle nudges of the Spirit. You are watching that tv program, and yet it does not bring you the satisfaction you thought it would or that it once did; that could be a call to turn off the television and sit still and read the Psalms.  The radio you listen to on the way to work- brings a sense of disquiet. that could be the Spirit saying, turn off the radio and listen to me and say the Jesus Prayer and pray the Trisagion Prayers.
The classical music you click on when you get home to an empty house- it may sound to you strangely vain-glorious and pompous instead of grand-  is that the Spirit calling you to quiet and stillness that you may draw near to God?  The disquiet you feel preparing grand feasts for your dinner, could that be a call to simpler foods so that you are not spending your energies titillating your gustatory organs?   The volume of books you plow through every week; are you beginning to feel an ennui in the reading of them? That cold be the Spirit calling you towards the Stillness.  All these things and a myriad more like them, are the things that the Spirit will call us away from in order that we might approach the threshold of inner hesychasm.
These are things that laymen can turn away from and find copious amounts of time for the work of Stillness.
These are the things that one can refrain from. There are also positive things that we laymen can do to pursue hesychasm in our life.  The practice of the Jesus prayer is chief among them.  The Jesus prayer is great as a discipline of the Spirit when we are in the waiting places of our busy lives. Waiting in the doctor's office; waiting in lines of traffic of in the grocery store; while commuting to and from work. There are so many times that the Jesus Prayer can be practiced.  There are the times when you are doing repetitive activities that don't require much mental activity.  Slicing the veggies.  the repetitive actions of housekeeping or of factory work. While standing and waiting at the Trade Show waiting on prospective customers to show up.  Between innings at your child's softball game.  At the side of a loved one's bed of sickness.  All sorts of opportunities to pursue God through the Jesus Prayer. 
The use of the Jesus Prayer historically has led many Christians towards Theosis and along they way they found the descent of the nous into the heart.  The found the Stillness of the Father.  The classical book The Way of the Pilgrim is just such a story of one such layman. His was a unique circumstance. He was called to a life of pilgrimage that was especially suited for the pursuit of unceasing prayer, of which hesychasm is the concomitant. Nevertheless, we are all called to such a life, and if we are seeking the Way will be opened, no matter the structure of our life.
Such was the case for me.  My life required a three year hiatus for the pursuit of unceasing prayer.  I went to prison.  I went because of a conscientious struggle with our Government but they decided I ought to be in jail and 96 percent of the time they take a person to Court that is where they go.  But Federal Prison Camp was a temporary call to a sort of monasticism.  Prior to going I went on a pilgrimage to St. Gregory Palamas monastery and the idea came to me there to take up the habit of praying the Hours of prayer, in Reader's fashion, as did the monks. So when I got back home from the pilgrimage, as I had been rendered unemployed by the actions of the Court, I had time to take my Horologion and pray the Hours of Prayer.  Along the way I was also able to memorize most of the prayer snd the Psalms that are routinely done in the Hours, including Matins and Vespers, so that, when the locked me up, I was pretty well equipped to continue the Hours as time allowed.  Circumstances also had it that I was placed in a 'job' that had no work and I had a corner of a carpenter's shop where I could be by myself all day.   There were the natural  impediments to distractions of normal life, and I found I had no desire to watch television, nor to listen to the radio. My reading was very limited. There it was, my monks cell for the prayer of the Hours, and in the morning was the handball court where  no one was yet active, and in the evening the track where one could have relative time to oneself for Vespers.  I undertook the Hours, and for several months I also added an almost daily prayer routine, trying to pray for every person that I could remember from the entirety of my life.
Towards the end of my stay, the Spirit was working and I came to the point that all my thoughts and my words were shown to be intersticed with pride.  There seemed to be nothing left to do.  I decided for my final 33 days, to do nothing but pray the Jesus Prayer. It was an amazing experience and things took place that I never expected would be my experience.  For this reaons and others the whole episode, as traumatic as it was, was worth it.  The Orthodox path of hesychasm; the pursuit of unceasing prayer; the use of the Jesus prayer all showed them to be intimately vital and real as far as the pursuit of deepening life in God is concerned. 
Since that time the Prayers memorized and some of the habits of prayer had continued to mold my days.  I find one can pray some of the Hours while on breaks at work, or while commuting to and from work, and as Iwork the night shift, in the late hours of the night when I am at home, and all is quiet.  The descent of the nous is real, and the pursuit of unceasing prayer is something that is the calling of us all, layman or monk.
I only wish had had enough faith and vision that I could have sold my business years ago, and taken off two years for prayer, but I was too spiritually dull to have conceived such a plan.  Perhaps there are those of you out there who want more of God.  Why not sell your businesses and take a three year Sabbatical, to spend time seeking God thorugh unceasing prayer? You might find things beyond your wildest imaginations.