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The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality Paperback – November 19, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

The spiritual traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church are all but unknown to most Christians in the West, who often think of Christianity as split into two camps: Bible-based Protestantism and sacramental Catholicism. Yet in The Mountain of Silence, sociologist Kyriacos Markides suggests that Orthodox spirituality offers rich resources for Western Christians to integrate the head and the heart, and to regain a more expansive view of Christian life. The book combines elements of memoir, travelogue, and history in a single story. Markides journeys to a cluster of monasteries on Mount Athos, an isolated peninsula in northern Greece and one of the holiest sites in the Orthodox tradition. He also visits the troubled island of Cyprus, largely occupied by Turkey since 1974, and makes the acquaintance of a monk named Father Maximos, who has established churches, convents, and monasteries. Markides, a native Cypriot, tells the tale of this journey in a tone that's loose and light, with many excursions on Church history and Greek and Turkish politics. But despite the easygoing tone, the importance of this book is potentially immense. The Mountain of Silence introduces a world that is entirely new to many Western readers, and unveils a Christian tradition that reveres the mystical approach to God as much as the rational, a tradition that Markides says "may have the potential to inject Christianity with the new vitality that it so desperately needs." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Markides, a Maine sociologist who was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith and later drifted into agnosticism, continues his spiritual journey homeward in this collection of captivating conversations with the monk Father Maximos. The book is set on the island of Cyprus, where the author and his monastic mentor spent extended periods of time together due to unexpected circumstances that moved Father Maximos from the "Holy Mountain" of Mount Athos. Markides (Riding with the Lion), his interest piqued by an earlier pilgrimage to Mount Athos, used a sabbatical from the University of Maine to further explore the body of Christian mysticism that Mount Athos's monks have preserved since the ninth century. Here, Markides and others pepper the charismatic Maximos with questions on a wide range of topics from angels, saints and demons to the role of icons in worship and the place of hell in Christian belief. Markides is a skillful and skeptical inquisitor whose queries surely must have tried the patience of his mentor. But Maximos rises to the occasion, providing gentle, thoughtful answers that by necessity often transcend the Western mind's reliance on logic in spiritual matters. Markides's work is an excellent resource for spiritual seekers of all levels, answering questions about Christianity in general and Eastern monasticism in particular. It will be of special interest to those who may be unaware of Christianity's deep roots in mysticism.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Reprint edition (November 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385500920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385500920
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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117 of 120 people found the following review helpful By matt on August 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read Markides' account of his contact with the monks of Mount Athos, and being quite familiar with the literature on the subject of Eastern Christian mysticism/theology, I have to say that this book was a real means of grace for me. To further make my point, one needs only to read who recommends the book on the back cover- Bishop Kallistos Ware, the preeminent spokesman for Eastern Orthodoxy in the West and the retired professor of Eastern Orthodox studies at Oxford University!
I can positively remark that this book accurately depicts the practical outcome of anyone who follows the guidance of the Christian East. Holiness and wisdom are not reserved only for the monks, but for all those who seek Christ with a pure heart. The wisdom of Father Maximos, a main figure in the book, is simply a distillation of the wisdom of 2000 years of prayer and worship as found in the East. If it happens to reflect in some ways current New Age mentalities, it is not, believe me, a sign that the Eastern Church has somehow taken their advice! I have the suspicion that those who understand Christianity through Western Protestant eyes would find this work a bit odd to say the least. Monks who are clairvoyant, can change someone else's perception of time, etc are not common in Protestant Christianity. But then again, they have not had the benefit of a 2000-year-old tradition of spirituality and prayer. This is not to put the Protestants down, it is only the observation that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when the East already has a very succinct and proven method of spiritual development that goes much beyond the non-accountable, individualistic spirit of much of the Christian West.
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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful By X. Libris on August 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Rarely have I underlined the text of a book as much as I recently did with "The Mountain of Silence," by Kyriacos C. Markides.
Markides, a sociology professor at the University of Maine, was born on Cyprus into an Eastern Orthodox family, but became secularized while coming of age during the Sixties in the United States. The sociological research for his earliest books brought him into contact with the mystical traditions, shamanism and Occultism of the Orient. A serendipitous experience in 1991 caused him to begin investigating the mystical traditions of the Orthodox Christian faith of his youth, which is covered in his previous book, "Riding with the Lion."
For this book, Markides had intended to spend a sabbatical on Mount Athos, the "Holy Mountain" on a remote peninsula in Greece set aside for over a thousand years as the home to a number of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Upon learning that his main contact had returned to Cyprus to become the abbot of Panagia Monastery, he changed his plans to spend several months there with Father Maximos and the other monastics under his supervision.
While this book is an amazing travelogue, which also contains some engrossing history lessons about Cyprus, monasticism and the Christian faith, it is primarily a series of personal conversations between Professor Markides and Father Maximos. It was the many enlightening comments by the abbot that I found myself voraciously underlining in my copy of the book.
While "The Mountain of Silence" has appendices for chapter endnotes and a helpful glossary of Greek terms used throughout the book, it unfortunately does not contain an index.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By P. M Simon on December 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
THE MOUNTAIN OF SILENCE is a rare treat, an insight into Orthodox spirituality and theology that also delights as a narrative and travelogue!

The author is an ethnic Greek professor of socilology in Maine. He had lost his faith until he started investigating spirituality and healing, including a long visit to Mount Athos, the legendary Orthodox monastery. There he met Father Maximos, a devout, eloquent, and intellectual monk.

The Mountain of Silence picks up this story as Father Maximos is called to Cyprus to help revive monasticism on the divided island. Markides gets to spend a summer with the holy man, serving as his driver and foil for theological discourse. It's a fabulous story full of insights into topics as diverse as Theosis (the Orthodox idea that God became man that man might become God), uncreated light (think St. Gregory Palomas), drug treatment, magicians, and iconography.

The book is fascinating and intriguing. It becomes obvious that the author has had his faith renewed and reinforced, although he does not make a major issue of this; instead, he concentrates on the importance of a Christian life in the modern world.

The volume is not a fast read but it is accessible and clear. The author's follow-on book, Gifts of the Desert, will satisfy those who want to know more.

By all means, Orthodox or not, if you are looking for spirituality or plumbing its nature, this book is a key to the portals of the All-Holy Trinity!
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94 of 109 people found the following review helpful By A. S. Damick on July 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
I regard this book as very good... as far as it goes. Its main problem is that, overall, it offers an examination of spirituality without Christ. Mind you, I don't know whether the author (and certainly not the main subject of the book, "Fr. Maximos"!) had this intention, but it came across to me as a serious blindspot in the book's presentation of Orthodox spirituality.

Much is made of the Threefold Way and the mystical-ascetical tradition of the Orthodox Church, and that is good. Generally, this is the stuff that many Christians are missing and need. But there is a decided lack of integration of this presentation of Orthodox tradition with the central reality of the Christian life, namely, Jesus Christ the God-man. Certainly, the reader can come away with some mind-blowing revelations regarding the supra-rationality of Orthodox mystical tradition and the application of that tradition to the life of every Christian, but I think the author rather assumes that the reader already knows Jesus in some sense and doesn't bother to bring Him into the picture. Or perhaps he doesn't see Christ's centrality to the Church.

I very much doubt that the relative absence of Christ is something that "Fr. Maximos" (a pseudonym for Fr. Athanasius, now Metropolitan of Limassol in Cyprus) communicated to Markides. Anyone who has had any contact with authentic Athonite monasticism knows that such monks are "all about Jesus," to put it colloquially. There certainly is much discussion of God, the Holy Spirit and grace in the book, but Christ, Who is the Door to Paradise, is hardly mentioned. One would have a hard time getting the impression from The Mountain of Silence that the very object and purpose of all this spirituality is Christ.
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