Do you ever read a book that sticks with you like a piece of gum stuck on your shoe–even if you try to wipe it off, it won’t go away? That is what The Mountain Of Silence–A Search For Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides has done to me. I keep thinking about it and going back to it and rereading parts of it.
Kyriacos C. Markides is a sociologist and a professor at the University of Maine. He was trained in Western universities and accepted an anti-supernatural viewpoint. Eventually he began to do research into the para-normal and mysticism. He says: “it increasingly became clear to me that the secular assumptions about reality, dominant during my university training, were in fact a grand illusion, a materialist superstition that had kept Western thought stranded and imprisoned for the last three hundred years.” He also says: The realization of the phoniness of scientific materialism had a tremendously liberating effect on my mind.”
Dr. Markides grew up on Cyprus in a Greek Orthodox Christian family. As an adult he had rejected all religion, but his research into the supernatural eventually led him to explore the mystical traditions of the Orthodox faith. He spent some time on Mount Athos, a Greek peninsula that has been a haven for monks for more than 1,000 years. There he met and was befriended by a monk named Father Maximos who began to teach him the spiritual techniques of the ancient Orthodox monks.
The Mountain Of Silence begins after Father Maximos was asked to lead a monastery in Cyprus. Dr. Markides goes to Cyprus and spends several months living with Father Maximos and other monks. In the book he describes the way the monks lived and interacted with the people of Cyprus. He also writes many chapters about his experiences as Father Maximos instructed him about the rich spiritual heritage and teaching of the Orthodox Church.
I was inspired and encouraged by the wisdom of Father Maximos. He says things like:
“The ideal and ultimate form of true faith means having direct experience of God as a living reality.”
“Those who wish to investigate whether God exists must employ the appropriate methodology which is none other than the purification of the heart from egotistical passions and impurities.”
“When putrid thoughts get cultivated within the heart then the heart becomes accustomed to them. In fact it relishes them.”
“Whenever we absolutize something, be it an ideology, money or even scientific knowledge, we are into idolatry.”
Father Maximos also shares with Dr. Markides several amazing supernatural experiences that he and other monks from Mount Athos have had.
I may never get to meet and know a deeply spiritual Orthodox monk. However, after reading The Mountain Of Silence I feel like I know Father Maximos. Though I have never met him, he taught me a lot. I greatly appreciate Dr. Markides for writing this book and making this wisdom and these experiences available to those of us who have only known Western Christianity and Western secularism.
The Mountain Of Silence is non-fiction that reads like inspirational fiction. I highly recommend it.