The Philokalia was one of the first books I read on the subject of early Christian mysticism and continues to inspire my wonderful journey. In many ways, I consider it a tasting menu and cross section of the greatest Christian philosophers, mystics, and writers of all ages.
By late February 2013, my midlife crisis of the previous two years had evolved into a crisis of faith. Spiritually I was going to hit a tremendous crossroads that would change me forever. As I sat on my couch editing GGCBCC, I grabbed a straw that had been pointing at me for awhile. That straw was a number. 662.
I was led to the Philokalia by way of Wikipedia when I typed in the number 662 into Google one night. It’s amusing that we ever made it through our day without Google. The number had come up in my life too many times recently to be discounted any longer. Among other things, it was the date of the death of Saint Maximus the Confessor. If you have ever read an author that really speaks to you down to your very soul, that’s what happened to me with Saint Maximus. As I read the Wikipedia entry, I took notes pulling out the relevant authors and books that might continue my education once I finished GGCBCC. My first book was the Philokalia.
We have a wonderful public library system in San Mateo County. It allows you to pull books in from different branches and that is exactly what I began doing. I am always open to suggestions for further reading, but for me the Philokalia was the perfect choice to begin my education. It paints a beautiful mosaic from the excerpts of leading Christian thinkers and philosophers during the creation and formation of the Christian religion. These contributors included mystics, desert hermits, Saints, and even the kernel of philosophers that together created the operating system we call Christianity.
I used to believe that religious folks were superstitious and feared science and reason. The state of Texas was proof in my mind with their desire to outlaw critical thinking in schools. Then I realized that I had typecast all Christians into an extremist minority no different than many Americans probably do with followers of the Jewish or Muslim faith. The Philokalia demonstrated to me the incredible critical thinking and reasoning that was required to build the foundation of the Christian Church.
If you can only read one book on Christianity to start your journey, I recommend the Philokalia. It will show you a beautiful back story to Christianity that will inspire further reading.