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Russian Mystics (Cistercian Studies, CS26) Paperback – Illustrated, January, 1977
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About the Author
Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Catholic convert, Cistercian monk and hermit, poet, contemplative, social critic, and pioneer of interreligious dialogue, was a seminal figure of twentieth-century American Christianity.
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This book suits my purposes well!
I treat it as an overview which allows me to pick and choose which specific writers will be most beneficial to me and my path at this time. An Orthodox priest let me borrow his copy. I find myself in need of buying one for myself because I will need to read it, mark it and keep it as a future reference for my future studies.
The title "Russian Mystics", may seem to mean `any mystic that lived in Russia from any religious or spiritual tradition', but this is not the case. Serguis Bolshakoff writes about the `Christian Russian Orthodox' from the Byzantine Empire to the modern Moscow Patriarch with focus on the Monastic or Hesychastic movements. Only very briefly does he write about either the Old Believers, Roman Catholic, Spiritualists, or other types of mysticism when they influence or come into historical contract with the Russian Orthodox Church.
There is a fantastic forward from Thomas Merton explaining the basic differences between the `Mysticism of Light' as with St. Seraphim use of `Apophatic' or negative theology from Pseudo Dionysus & St. Maximus the Confessor dealing with the Risen Lord, to the `Negative Mysticism' of Bishop Ignatius Bryanchaninov dealing with the Cross of the Lord.
The Introduction covers a brief basic history from the Byzantine Empire's first contract with the Slavs in the 10th century to modern times. Explaining the political power structures from Kiev to the transfer to Moscow & how Eastern Christianity focuses on different spiritual ideals than those of the West.
After that the chapters focus on either a certain century as with the 1st chapter on "Russian Monasticism to the End of the 15th Century", or a certain Saint as with the 2nd chapter "St. Nilus of Sora", ending with the 12th chapter "Russian Mystics in the 20th Century".
The highlights are the chapters on St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Blessed Paisius Velishkovsky, St. Seraphim of Sarov, Bishop Ignatius Bryanchaninov, & Bishop Theophan the Recluse.
At times Sergius Bolshakoff mentions places, books, or modern mystics themselves, that he was either met or had personally come in contact with. The book reads like Sergius Bolshakoff was really around the subject mater at first hand at Mt. Athos & a few other famous monasteries.
My main problem with the book is the translation, which even I, a poor student of my own native tongue, got lost in the sentence structure. An example of this is on page 117 at the 1st paragraph:
When Aracdia the Archimandrite whether such a cross awaited her, Lawrence answered: "Yes, indeed!"
This sentence makes Aracdia the Archimandrite, but in reality she was a nun & Lawrence was the Archimandrite. The sentence should read:
When Aracdia asked whether such a cross awaited her, Lawrence the Archimandrite answered: "Yes, indeed!"
Let's take out the word 'ask' just in case that wasn't in the original Russian:
When Aracdia whether such a cross awaited her, Lawrence the Archimandrite answered: "Yes, indeed!"
No, that doesn't read right either...
There are many other times this sort of mistake is made or a more common error is when an "A" or "The" is added in places where they should not be, which can confuse a normal reader of English.
I would like to ask the Cistercian Publications to proof read & clean up the book. If this was done it would be a very nice book indeed.