would be a deep-seated and witting hypocrisy on the part of all of us,
if we were to argue that the situation that we are experiencing is just
another -albeit very tenacious- economic crisis. All of us know or
can sense it in our soul that it is something much broader and much
deeper (which can of course be discerned in the Economy also, because
everything there is measurable). Crisis of values, crisis in
ecology, environmental crisis, political crisis, social crisis... crisis
I don't know if other
peoples are able to turn to their own Tradition and cope with everything
that is already here - and especially with everything that is to come.
I hope so. But we Greeks can. Our Tradition can redeem us. Of
course we are not talking about returning to the olden-day Greek kilt
instead of trousers, or back to moussaka and the ancient Spartans'
"black broth" in place of sushi and hamburgers... although they too may
be playing a small role. We are referring to the spiritual area of
our traditions, and specifically to the Greek spiritual tradition.
are the words of one who has dedicated more than three decades of
indulging in foreign spiritual traditions (with whatever punctuality and
sincerity my circumstances would allow...). I am writing these
things in a periodical on Quests, and in full awareness of the
relationship that exists between us, because I honestly believe that we
are approaching the point of a certain Great Reversal, without however
being able (perhaps even unintentionally) to determine what kind it is.
As I therefore look back
... when I first embarked on my contact with the traditions of other
peoples, I cannot see that my motive was insincere. I was in search of
the Truth. And yet, I don't know why... but there was no-one
around at the time, who could tell me about the [Orthodox Christian]
"guarding of the heart". On the contrary, others had appeared on
my path, who were willing to tell me about Raja Yoga which had recently
arrived in Greece, and that was how I learnt to stabilize my mind
through concentration and special practices. Perhaps I hadn't been
searching correctly. Nevertheless, in the Greek tradition, I found
no-one who could quench my thirst with anything more than obligations
and moralistic instructions, which were unimaginably abhorrent to me....
So, I went on to seek that much-desired freedom in Buddhism's vacuity,
and I learnt from the Vipasana about the awareness of the spirit. But at
the same time, I had forgotten and repulsed the fact that in my father's
and my grandfather's tradition, there was no such thing as vacuity, but
an Omnipresent and All-fulfilling God.
Later on, I had often
wondered why - despite the endless hours of meditation and inner silence
- the basic weaknesses of my soul had remained the same; but many
decades had to pass before hearing from fr. Constantine (Strategopoulos)
of the Glyfada parish that if Man doesn't believe in God and silences
his mind ("nous"), he will be filled with temptations... On the
contrary, if he believes in God and prays whenever he silences his mind,
he will be filled with Grace.
I familiarized myself and came to respect
(and still respect) the teachings of the major ascetics of the Orient:
Padma Sambava, Jime Ligpam Milarepa... but was entirely ignorant of the
fact that during the same era, in the tradition of my people, a Simon
the New Theologian was born and that Saint Nikitas Stethatos and Saint
Nicholas Kavasilas had been writing in my own language. I sought
and admired the unity of the bearers of human existence as taught by Tai
Chi and didn't know that Saint John had already described it in his
"Ladder", a thousand years before.
I had heard of the "broad spirit" of the
Sufis and have participated in discussions where our local tradition saw
itself at the ... level of Hinayana - the "small vehicle" - ie, the one
where the ascetic is interested only in his personal salvation.
Why was that? Because the Protestant viewpoint of personal
salvation had become prevalent here, and had taught the people to
interpret the Church through that viewpoint. I had never
heard that the Orthodox are saved as a Church - that is, as a
community/society of Persons - as opposed to the Westerners, who strive
to be saved as individuals (Protestantism) or through the Pope (Roman
from the tradition of my country had ever told me that the Church seeks
to deify and is directed to "all of Creation", which is why I felt such
awe when I heard that the Mahayana embraces all beings.
I rejected with arrogance the notion of
Hell and of a vindictive God, and had turned in admiration towards the
knowledgeable depths of the Tibetan Bible of the Dead, but I didn't know
that much earlier, Saint Isaac (of my Greek tradition, albeit a Syrian)
had written that "those being punished in the
Gehenna are punished
by the plague of God's love", given that our tradition teaches that
the Light of God is light to those who approach it with a pure heart,
and fire to those who see it warped on account of their egotism.
I believed - along with most Greeks -
that Judas' greatest sin was his betrayal of Christ, and not his lack
of repentance for having betrayed Him, as the true spiritual path of
my country upheld, before being subjected to an assortment of influences
- by the Bavarocracy,
and up until the more recent, Western-type systems - from the West.
I too have travelled many miles to go and
meet (indeed) important people and situations that would help me along
my inner course, but it is unnatural - to say the least - for Greeks to
embark on a journey to the Himalayas, when the rugged desert of Mount
Athos is so close to them; for Athenians to go to Bodgaya when, right
next to us, in the city's district of Monastiraki, in the little church
of Saint Philip, there are the holy relics of two bodies that had
touched Christ Himself: Saints Peter and Philip!
not by any means wish to imply that the traditions of one people are
assuredly superior to foreign ones, or that the Greek spiritual
tradition outrivals all others - although all indications point to
something like that (an enormous philosophical background, a colossal
volume of works produced, a vast number of literary ascetics, with
writings formulated in our native language, a tradition unbroken for
entire centuries, continuing faith by immediate ancestors, a connection
to all the crucial events of our people... etc);
I do want to say however that it would be a shame for one to not seek
the answers to the huge existential questions and societal concerns of
our day - especially a Greek - in his own homeland's traditions, before
turning to something else.