Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Oriental religions


The Great Reversal

The course of a publisher of a well-known magazine for the "spiritual search", which led him to Orthodoxy

by Paul G. Voudouris
An excerpt from the "Note by the Publisher" taken from the magazine "Trito Mati" (Third Eye),
issue No.166, December 2008, pages 2-3. 


This is the evaluation of the search pursued by a person who thirsted for the Truth, who had studied the traditions of the Orient for entire decades, and who finally quenched his thirst in Orthodoxy.  The text is being re-published, with the kind permission of its author.



It 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 everywhere. [...]


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. (*)


These 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 Catholicism).


No-one 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!


I do 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.


(*) I know that the expression «Greek tradition» is open to many interpretations.  Nevertheless, in reality the notion of tradition definitely entails two prerequisites: firstly, the laypeople's experience, which demands many years -even centuries- to take shape. And secondly, an equally long-lived and unbroken continuation thereof.  In our day, these criteria seem to be preserved only by the Orthodox Tradition in Greece. It is quite possible of course, in a hundred or a hundred and fifty years - if suitable conditions exist at the time - that one might be able to speak of other Greek spiritual traditions; ones that are being created or reborn in our time, provided their bearers manage to keep them alive and unbroken.



Translation by K.N.

Article published in English on: 21-7-2009.

Last update: 21-7-2009.