World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


The Philokalia (Ancient Greek: φιλοκαλία "love of the beautiful, the good", from φιλία philia "love" and κάλλος kallos "beauty") is "a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters"[1] of the Eastern Orthodox hesychast tradition. They were originally written for the guidance and instruction of monks in "the practise of the contemplative life".[2] The collection was compiled in the eighteenth-century by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth.

Although these works were individually known in the monastic culture of Greek Orthodox Christianity before their inclusion in The Philokalia, their presence in this collection resulted in a much wider readership due to its translation into several languages. The earliest translations included a Church Slavonic translation of selected texts by Paisius Velichkovsky (Dobrotolublye) in 1793, a Russian translation by Ignatius Bryanchaninov in 1857, and a five-volume translation into Russian (Dobrotolyubie) by St. Theophan the Recluse in 1877. There were subsequent Romanian, Italian and French translations.[3][4]

The book is a "principal spiritual text" for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches;[5] the publishers of the current English translation state that "The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church."[6]

Philokalia (sometimes Philocalia) is also the name given to an anthology of the writings of Origen compiled by Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. Other works on monastic spirituality have also used the same title over the years.[5][7]


  • History 1
  • Teachings 2
  • Timeline of editions and translations 3
  • Contents 4
    • Volume 1 4.1
    • Volume 2 4.2
    • Volume 3 4.3
    • Volume 4 4.4
    • Volume 5 4.5
  • Translations 5
  • External Links 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • Further reading 9


Nikodemos and Makarios were monks at Mt. Athos, a mountain in northern Greece historically considered the geographical center of Orthodox spirituality and home to many monasteries. The first edition, in Greek, was published in Venice in 1782, with a second Greek edition published in Athens in 1893. All the original texts were in Greek—two of them were first written in Latin and translated into Greek in the Byzantine era.[3]

Paisius Velichkovsky's translation into Church Slavonic, Dobrotolublye (published in Moscow in 1793), included selected portions of The Philokalia, and was the version that the pilgrim in The Way of a Pilgrim carried on his journey. That book about a Russian pilgrim who is seeking advice on interior prayer helped popularize The Philokalia and its teachings in Russia. Velichkovsky's translation was the first to become widely read by the public, away from the monasteries—helped by the popularity of The Way of a Pilgrim, and the public influence of the startsy at Optina Monastery known as the Optina Elders. Two Russian language translations appeared in the 19th century, by Ignatius Brianchaninov (1857) and Theophan the Recluse's Dobrotolubiye (1877). The latter was published in five volumes, and included texts that were not in the original Greek edition.[3][8][4]

Velichkovsky was initially hesitant to share his translation outside of the Optina Monastery walls. He was concerned that people living in the world would not have the adequate supervision and guidance of the startsy in the monastery, nor would they have the support of the liturgical life of the monks. He was finally persuaded by the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg to publish the book in 1793. Brianchanivov expressed the same concerns in his work, warning his readers that regular practice of the Jesus Prayer, without adequate guidance, could potentially cause spiritual delusion and pride, even among monks. Their concerns were contrary to the original compiler of The Philokalia, Nicodemos, who wrote that the Jesus Prayer could be used to good effect by anyone, whether monastic or layperson. (Necessary to emphasise - not contrary, forasmuch as the proper way of addressing God in humble fear towards and in truthful love for God is implicit in Nocodemos; also, the Prayer should thus, in good time, be instructive unto approaching God more and more piously in the course of praying). All agreed that the teachings on constant inner prayer should be practiced under the guidance of a spiritual teacher, or starets.[9]

The first partial English and French translations in the 1950s were an indirect result of the Bolshevik revolution, which brought many Russian intellectuals into Western Europe. T. S. Eliot persuaded his fellow directors of the publishing house Faber and Faber to publish a partial translation into English from the Theophan Russian version, which met with surprising success in 1951. A more complete English translation, from the original Greek, began in 1979 with a collaboration between G. E. H. Palmer, Kallistos Ware, and Philip Sherrard. They released four of the five volumes of The Philokalia between 1979 and 1995.[10] In 1946, the first installment of a ten volume Romanian translation by Father Dumitru Stăniloae appeared. In addition to the original Greek text, Stăniloae added "lengthy original footnotes of his own" as well as substantially expanding the coverage of texts by Maximus the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas. This work is 4,650 pages in length.[11] Writings by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton on hesychasm also helped spread the popularity of The Philokalia, along with the indirect influence of J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, which featured The Way of a Pilgrim as a main plot element.[12]


The collection's title is The Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers,[13] or more fully The Philokalia of the Neptic Saints gathered from our Holy Theophoric Father, through which, by means of the philosophy of ascetic practice and contemplation, the intellect is purified, illumined, and made perfect.[5] Niptic is an adjective derived from the Greek Nipsis (or Nepsis) referring to contemplative prayer and meaning "watchfulness". Watchfulness in this context includes close attention to one's thoughts, intentions, and emotions, with the aim of resisting temptations and vain and egoistic thoughts, and trying to maintain a constant state of remembrance of God. There are similarities between this ancient practice and the concept of mindfulness as practiced in Buddhism and other spiritual traditions.[14][15] The Philokalia teachings have also influenced the revival of interior prayer in modern times through the centering prayer practices taught by Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton.[16]

Philokalia is defined as the "love of the beautiful, the exalted, the excellent, understood as the transcendent source of life and the revelation of Truth."[17] In contemplative prayer the mind becomes absorbed in the awareness of God as a living presence as the source of being of all creatures and sensible forms. According to the authors of the English translation, Kallistos Ware, G. E. H. Palmer, and Philip Sherrard, the writings of The Philokalia have been chosen above others because they: the way to awaken and develop attention and consciousness, to attain that state of watchfulness which is the hallmark of sanctity. They describe the conditions most effective for learning what their authors call the art of arts and the science of sciences, a learning which is not a matter of information or agility of mind but of a radical change of will and heart leading man towards the highest possibilities open to him, shaping and nourishing the unseen part of his being, and helping him to spiritual fulfilment and union with God."[17]

The Philokalia is the foundational text on hesychasm ("quietness"), an inner spiritual tradition with a long history dating back to the Desert Fathers.[5] The practices include contemplative prayer, quiet sitting, and recitation of the Jesus Prayer. While traditionally taught and practiced in monasteries, hesychasm teachings have spread over the years to include laymen.[8] Nikodemos, in his introduction, described the collected texts as "a mystical school of inward prayer" which could be used to cultivate the inner life and to "attain the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." While the monastic life makes this easier, Nikodemos himself stressed that "unceasing prayer" should be practiced by all.[2]

The hesychasm teachings in the Philokalia are viewed by Orthodox Christians as inseparable from the sacraments and liturgy of the Orthodox Church, and are given by and for those who are already living within the framework of the Church. A common theme is the need for a spiritual father or guide.[18]

Timeline of editions and translations

  • 4th-15th centuries The original texts are written by various spiritual masters. Most are written in Greek, two are written in Latin and translated into Greek during Byzantine times.[3]
  • 1782 First edition, Greek, published in Venice, compiled by Nikodemos and Makarios.[3]
  • 1793 Church Slavonic translation of selected texts, Dobrotolublye, by Paisius Velichkovsky, published in Moscow. This translation was carried by the pilgrim in The Way of a Pilgrim. First to be read outside of monasteries, with a strong influence on the two following Russian translations.[3][4]
  • 1857 Russian language translation, by Ignatius Brianchaninov.[3]
  • 1877 Russian language translation, by Theophan the Recluse, included several texts not in the Greek original, and omitted or paraphrased some passages.[3]
  • 1893 Second Greek edition, published in Athens, included additional texts by Patriarch Kallistos.[3]
  • 1946-1976 In 1946, the first installment of a ten volume Romanian translation by Father Dumitru Stăniloae appeared.[3][19]
  • 1951, 1954 First partial English translations by E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer in two volumes: Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart and Early Fathers from the Philokalia. These were translated from Theophane's Russian version, and published by Faber and Faber.[3]
  • 1957-1963 Third Greek edition, published in Athens by Astir Publishing Company in five volumes. Modern English translation based on this edition.[3]
  • 1979-1995 English translation by Kallistos Ware, G. E. H. Palmer, and Philip Sherrard, of the first four of the five Greek volumes, from the Third Greek edition. This was published by Faber and Faber.[3]


This listing of texts is based on the English translation of four volumes by Bishop Kallistos Ware, G. E. H. Palmer, and Philip Sherrard. The fifth volume has yet to be published in English. Some works in the Philokalia are also found in the Patrologia Graecae and Patrologia Latina of J. P. Migne.

Volume 1

  1. On Guarding the Intellect: 27 Texts
  1. Outline Teaching on Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary
  2. Texts on Discrimination in respect of Passions and Thoughts
  3. Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness
  4. On Prayer: 153 Texts
  1. On the Eight Vices
  2. On the Holy Fathers of Sketis and on Discrimination
  1. On the Spiritual Law: 200 Texts
  2. On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: 226 Texts
  3. Letter to Nicolas the Solitary
  1. On Watchfulness and Holiness
  1. Ascetic Discourse
  1. On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: 100 Texts
  1. For the Encouragement of the Monks in India who had Written to Him: 100 Texts
  2. Ascetic Discourse Sent at the Request of the Same Monks in India
  1. On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: 170 Texts

This piece by Anthony was changed to an appendix in the English translation by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware (1979, p. 327), because of their view that the language and the general idea is not explicitly Christian and may not have been written by Antony

Volume 2

  1. A Century of Spiritual Texts
  2. Theoretikon
  1. Four Hundred Texts on Love, with a foreword to Elpidios the Presbyter
  2. Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God (written for Thalassios)
  3. Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice
  4. On the Lord's Prayer
  1. On Love, Self Control, and Life in accordance with the Intellect (written for Paul the Presbyter)
  1. On the Virtues and the Vices
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood

Volume 3

  1. A Gnomic Anthology: Part I
  2. A Gnomic Anthology: Part II
  3. A Gnomic Anthology: Part III
  4. A Gnomic Anthology: Part IV
  1. The Ladder of Divine Graces
  1. Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge
  2. Book II: Twenty-Four Discourses
  1. Spiritual Perfection
  2. Prayer
  3. Patient Endurance and Discrimination
  4. The Raising of the Intellect
  5. Love
  6. The Freedom of the Intellect

Volume 4

  1. On Faith
  2. 153 Practical and Theological Texts
  3. The Three Methods of Prayer [attributed to him]
  1. On the Practice of the Virtues: One Hundred Texts
  2. On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts
  3. On Spiritual Knowledge, Love and the Perfection of Living: One Hundred Texts
  1. On Inner Work in Christ and the Monastic Profession
  2. Texts
  1. On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart
  1. On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer: 137 Texts
  2. Further Texts
  3. On the Signs of Grace and Delusion, Written for the Confessor Longinos: Ten Texts
  4. On Stillness: Fifteen Texts
  5. On Prayer: Seven Texts
  1. To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia
  2. A New Testament Decalogue
  3. In Defence of Those who Devoutly Practise a Life of Stillness
  4. Three Texts on Prayer and Purity of Heart
  5. Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: 150 Texts
  6. The Declaration of the Holy Mountain in Defence of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness

Volume 5

This volume has not yet been published in English translation. These are the contents of the modern Greek translation.[20]

  • Kallistos and Ignatios the Xanthopouloses
  1. Method and precise canon for those who choose the hesichastic and monastic life: 100 chapters
  • Kalistos Angelikoudis
  1. Kefalaia (Chapters): 81 chapters
  • Kalistos Tilikoudis (presumed the same as Kalistos Angelikoudis)
  1. On Hesichastic Practice
  • Kalistos Katafygiotis (presumed the same as Kalistos Angelikoudis)
  1. On union with God, and Life of Theoria[21]
  • Saint Simeon Archbishop of Thessaloniki
  1. Chapters on the Sacred and Deifying prayer
  • Saint Mark the Gentle
  1. On the Words that are Contained in the Sacred Prayer
  • Anonymous
  1. Interpretation of "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord Have Mercy)
  • Saint Simeon the New Theologian
  1. Discourse on Faith and teaching for those who say that it is not possible for those who find themselves in the worries of the world to reach the perfection of the virtues, and narration that is beneficial at the beginning.
  2. On the Three Ways of Prayer


  • Palmer, G. E. H.;  
  • Palmer, G. E. H.;  
  • Palmer, G. E. H.;  
  • Palmer, G. E. H.;  
  • Cavarnos, Constantine (2007). The Philokalia: Love of the Beautiful. Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies.  
  • Cavarnos, Constantine (2009). The Philokalia: A Second Volume of Selected Readings (Selected Readings from the Philokalia, Volume 2). Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.  
  • Palmer, G. E. H.; Ware, Kallistos. "The Philokalia: Complete Text". Retrieved 9 June 2014. 

External Links

Quotes from the Philokalia at Orthodox Church Quotes

See also


  1. ^ Ware, Kallistos; Sherrard, Philip (1979). The Philokalia: the complete text. London: Faber. p. 10.  
  2. ^ a b Ware (1979), pp. 14-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ware (1979), pp. 11–12.
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, Christopher D. L. (2010). The Globalization of Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer. Continuum Advances in Religious Studies. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 39.  
  5. ^ a b c d Palmer, G. E. H.; Ware, Kallistos; Allyne Smith; Sherrard, Philip (2006). The Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts—selections Annotated & Explained (SkyLight Illuminations). Skylight Paths Publishing. pp. vii–xiv.  
  6. ^ Ware (1979), Publisher's blurb from back cover.
  7. ^ English translation online here
  8. ^ a b Witte, John F.; Alexander, Frank S. (2007). The teachings of modern Orthodox Christianity on law, politics, and human nature. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 6.  
  9. ^ Johnson (2010), p. 38.
  10. ^ Ware, Kallistos (2008). René Gothóni, Graham Speake, ed. The Monastic Magnet: Roads to and from Mount Athos. Peter Lang. pp. 148–149.  
  11. ^ Binns, John. An Introduction to the Orthodox Christian Churches (2002). Cambridge University Press, pp. 92-93. ISBN 0521661404
  12. ^ Johnson (2010), pp. 41-42.
  13. ^ Ware (1979) pp. 367-368
  14. ^ Dowd, E. Thomas; Stevan Lars Nielsen (2006). The Psychologies in Religion. Springer Publishing Company. p. 55.  
  15. ^ Braud, William; Anderson, Rosemarie (1998). Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences: honoring human experience. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. p. 243.  
  16. ^ Palmer, G. E. H.; Allyne Smith (2006). Philokalia: the Eastern Christian spiritual texts. SkyLight Paths Publishing. p. 14.  
  17. ^ a b Ware (1979), p. 13.
  18. ^ Ware (1979), p. 16.
  19. ^ Binns, John. An Introduction to the Orthodox Christian Churches (2002). Cambridge University Press, pp. 92-93. ISBN 0-521-661404
  20. ^ Φιλοκαλία των Ιερών Νυπτικκών, in Greek, translated into modern Greek by Antonios G. Galitis, Perivoli tis Panagias publishers, Thessaloniki, 3rd edition, 2002. 
  21. ^ "On Union With God and Life of Theoria, part translated into English". Retrieved 2010-06-02. .

Further reading

  • Paschalis M. Kitromilides, "Philokalia's first journey?" in Idem, An Orthodox Commonwealth: Symbolic Legacies and Cultural Encounters in Southeastern Europe (Aldershot, 2007) (Variorum Collected Studies Series: CS891),
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.