Elder Sophrony of Essex, Empirical Dogmatics, Letters to His Family, Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, St. Silouan of Mount Athos, St. Silouan the Athonite, The Philokalia, The Spiritual Perfecting of Christians, The Way of a Pilgrim
The subject of noetic prayer is wonderfully described in The Way of a Pilgrim.
“If you want to have a concise and very brief idea of this, I implore you to read – I could even make it compulsory as part of the class, if I wanted, and threaten to set a question on the book – it is a very small book called The Way of a Pilgrim. Please read that book, The Way of a Pilgrim, at least the first book, as I am not sure if both books exist in Greek. Two books have been translated and it is not certain whether they are both by the same author. There was a Russian pilgrim, what we might now call an illiterate peasant – nowadays we would say he was illiterate, although the illiterate are often more learned that the literate. He found a spiritual father, learnt noetic prayer and describes how he acquired it.”
This simple man had such a tradition that he read the Philokalia, which circulated before the 1821 Revolution in the region of the Ottoman Empire and also spread outside Greece “to the other parts of Romanity, Epirus, Macedonia, Thessaly, Thrace, Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, the islands, Crete, all the Middle East, as far are the Danube, as far as Russian Bessarabia.”
“Then there is another book which has been published in Greek, about Father Silouan. That is very important as well, because it is full of patristic theology, it is completely patristic. It contains the most profound epistemological problems, without him realising it. Because he did not know philosophy, the history of philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and so on, he was not in a position to evaluate the things he said. But the things he said and wrote have amazing significance for the history of philosophy and epistemology. Amazing significance.
I fear that here in Greece those who read The Way of a Pilgrim and Elder Silouan read them in a pietistic and sentimental way. To read these books sentimentally and pietistically is a very serious mistake, because these books are neither about emotions nor about pietism. They are extremely serious books from the psychiatric, psychological and philosophical point of view, and they ought to be read seriously, not to stimulate the imagination of the pious.
This is what happens here in Greece. Pious people may read a book by Kierkegaard or a French writer, then something by an English writer and something on prayer by a German writer. They may read the life of Christ by an Italian author, and also read The Way of a Pilgrim and Elder Silouan, without understanding that there is a difference and regarding them all as the same. They mix up everything together.
They may pick up a book on piety written by the devil himself without realising it. So a great deal of caution is needed, caution and a lot of prayer. Precision in prayer is extremely important.”
—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. “Empirical Dogmatics of The Orthodox Catholic Church. According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides.” Volume 2. 2013.