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A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought (SU (Suny Series, Western Esoteric Traditions) Paperback – July 1, 1995
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A Masterpiece of Spiritual Insight - Theodore J. Nottingham, November 2002 A Different Christianity is a masterpiece of spiritual insight, bringing together for the first time in a stunning feat of metaphysical detective work the mystical teachings of early Christianity with Perennial esoteric wisdom. Here we find the thread that connects Gurdjieff and the hermits of third century Egypt, John of the Cross and Isaac the Syrian, Hesychia (inner tranquility) and Hindu Advaita (non-duality), ancient monastic spiritual practices and the holistic insights of the New Age. Author Robin Amis, a long-time teacher of the path to conscious evolution, offers a world desperate for inner transformation a treasure map to the house of the soul. This book has the potential of revolutionizing contemporary assumptions about the Christian Faith and providing the missing links in esoteric teachings such as the Fourth Way. A masterwork of synergy and understanding, A Different Christianity is potent food for the serious reader's transformation of being. The author's fundamental thesis is that Christianity possesses an inner tradition that has never been common knowledge in the Western world. This Esoteric Christianity was once known as the "Royal Way" and has barely survived except in places like the monasticism of the Eastern Church. The author claims that we can find traces, in some of the great spiritual texts, of teachings that deal with experiential transformation and go back to the first centuries of the Church. But from the time of Clement of Alexandria, one of the beacons of this inner wisdom, various factors have caused the "unplanned but effective censorship" and forgetfulness of these powerful ideas. Amis clearly differentiates between Christian gnosis and the gnostic sects. Gnosis, as used here, is a special kind of inner knowledge handed down unwritten by the Apostles and is quite different from the mythologies of the later sects. Along with his scholarly research, Mr. Amis shares his own personal experiences in seeking out this lost teaching. He details his visits to Mount Athos where this spiritual wisdom has been passed on for a thousand years. He describes the island as a "place that can help one discover the eternal within oneself." His conversation with a pneumaticos (spiritual hermit) is particularly striking for he is given a message to the West: "You English have served man very well with your intellect...Now you should do another work: to understand and to tell the world of the inner truth, the truth of the heart." This book is the fulfillment of that extraordinary charge. In another sharing of his experience on the Greek peninsula, the author describes the psychosomatic impact of liturgy: "I began to understand what was really possible for a human being." Later, under a pine tree overlooking the Aegean Sea, he encounters the inward stillness that is the apex of hesychast wisdom. "Within that stillness emerged a presence I can never describe." Amis proceeds to detail the psychological phenomenon of spiritual awakening as expressed by the inner tradition. He writes extensively of the Greek philosophical concept of the nous which he understands as the cognitive power at the center of our being. The author provides numerous quotes from sources of wisdom rarely found in the West, including the second century work of Clement and of the nineteenth century Russian starets (spiritual teacher) Theophan the Recluse. Such teachings may be found in classic texts like The Philokalia and Unseen Warfare but virtually no one has integrated them with modern esoteric thought. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Robin Amis, Director of Praxis Research Institute, is one of the small circle of people regarded on Mount Athos as 'fellow workers. He compiled and published The Heart of Salvation, a life and teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse, the great Russian master of the last century.
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*One big gripe though* I would have given it 5 stars if the author was not so insistant in reminding the reader Gurdjieff's teaching were from taken from the Greek Orthodox tradition. They weren't. Get "In Search of the Miraculous" and a volume of the Philokalia and compare them. The differences are obvious in aim, method and teaching. It is well documented that the bulk of Gurdjieff's teachings derived from his time spent with the Sufis, along with the Buddhists and yogis. He reformulated them to reach Europeans who were soaked in existenialism like Ouspensky and Nicoll. In fact the the mystical teachings of the Orthodox Church are aimed at monks not householders or married folks. Just read the Philokalia or the writings of St. Theophan the Recluse that Amis uses to support his this. The writings of St. Theophan are not aimed at laity, in fact if a modern person followed them they'd lose their sanity. Gurdjeiff even on his death bed advised his students to travel to the far east not Mt. Athos. Even though Amis claims otherwise he presents no proof of it. Though one can truthfully state that G. was well schooled on Orthodox theology he never claimed that it presented a complete spiritual path. An example would be G's concept of us as a "three brained being" is clearly Sufic not Christian.
Amis also raises the idea that a secret brotherhood in Eastern Christianity kept alive esoteric teachings is betrayed by the fact that he has no evidence for them nor does the Orthodox condone it.
To me Amis does a disservice to himself and to the reader by making up a fake history to support his claim that the Fourth Way is inner Christianity. The Church would consider G's teaching a heresy at the very least. Though it can be used as such as it would form the "how to" part of Christianity. The Orthodox maintain that Eastern Christianity is perfect and needs no occult practices.
I'd also recommend the following books which can help with the how-to aspects of what Amis is writing about.
The Mystical Theology of the Orthodox Church - Vladimir Lossky
Living the Mindful life - by Charles Tart
Living Presence - Edmund Helminski
Other books that are must reading on this subject are "Mountain of Silence" by Markides and "Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Please see my other reviews for many other relevant titles.
Amis tells us that Christianity possesses an inner tradition that has never been common knowledge in the Western world. This Esoteric Christianity was once known as the "Royal Way" and has barely survived except in places like the monasticism of the Eastern Church.
The inner psychological work revealed in these teachings contribute to the goal of "inner autonomy of spirit."
This book offers us the missing pieces that can revive a teaching of great power and which is made known in the 20th century through the legacies of Theophan the Recluse, G.I. Gurdjieff and other masters of wisdom.