Monday, June 18, 2018

The Author of the Book "The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios"

There is a popular Orthodox book in English titled "The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios" by someone who does not want to reveal his identity and gives himself the pseudonym "Dionysios Farasiotis". But in a lecture back in 2011, a noted author in Greece who has written other serious books about Elder Paisios revealed that he was indeed the author of the book "The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios". His name is Athanasios Rakovalis, a professor of Physics. Below is a brief outline of what he said in the lecture, and the video can be seen below the text.

He explains in the video that when he met Elder Paisios he was a young unbeliever and considered Christians as suffering from psychological problems, and for this reason he didn't consider himself worthy to speak with him. His unbelief he considers to have stemmed from the propaganda of books and newspapers and acquaintances. So when he first went to Mount Athos and came to know some of the monks there, he realized that things were not as he thought they were. He began a conversation with a young monk around his age, and he realized that he was intelligent and aware of the various issues in life, and he came to befriend him and respect him. It was this monk who urged him to go speak with Father Paisios, and though he was reluctant to do so, he went out of respect for the young monk.

When he first arrived at the cell of Elder Paisios at Panagouda, the Elder asked him who he was looking for. He responded "Elder Paisios. Is it you?" The Elder then passed him the key from his balcony and told him to come in. When he entered through the gate he saw the Elder up at the balcony, and as he approached the Elder asked him to pass over his jacket which was nearby. To pass the Elder his jacket he had to look up towards the balcony, and it was the first time he saw his face. As soon as he saw his face, he became blinded by a light and inside he felt as if he was melting and an inexpressible peace. This made him wonder what he just saw, thinking how it was possible for lightning to come from the face of a man.

He then met the Elder, and was impressed by how humble and friendly and easy going he was. Athanasios felt him to be so friendly, that he asked if he could give him a friendly kiss. Then they started a conversation. Elder Paisios told him: "Do you remember when you were young, and your father was in Athens and this and that happened. Well, the problem for which you came stems from that moment." He reminded him of an incident from his childhood that he had completely forgotten, to explain the root of a problem. As he left the cell of the Elder, he realized the Elder knew him better than he knew himself.

When he returned home, he continued living the lifestyle he lived before, far from the Church and far from Christ. But his encounter with Elder Paisios made an impression on him. After a month he returned to visit the Elder, and began a relationship with him, which changed his life, and they became close over the next twelve years till when the Elder passed away. But shortly after beginning this relationship and starting to study Orthodoxy, he saw an icon of the Transfiguration, with Christ illuminated and His disciples unable to look upon Him. This made him wonder that what he experienced with the Elder was similar to what happened with the disciples when they saw Christ transfigured. This also made him realize that the Orthodox faith is a living faith, and what he read in the Gospels is what he saw in the Elder.

The feeling of melting within his heart is something he felt many times. He explains how once he took the Elder on a three day trip throughout the Muslim villages of Thrace, and being with him for those three days gave him a continuous feeling of melting within. Another time at Mount Athos, around Christmas time, he asked the Elder jokingly if he was going to give him a gift. The Elder then took him by the hand and he felt his heart literally burning within him, overwhelmed with a feeling of otherworldly divine love. He also explains how shortly before the Elder's repose, he drove him to Souroti Monastery, and on the road he asked him what God was like. The Elder then bent his head in prayer, and suddenly the heavens opened and all of creation became filled with the presence of God, or at least he became aware of it.

At about the 22:00 minute mark in the video, the priest asks Athanasios if he knew of anyone coming to the Elder, like Father Sophrony of Essex, who dabbled in Far Eastern religions. He explains that the Elder did indeed help, especially young people, with these things, but Far Eastern religions like Buddhism and practices like Yoga weren't as popular as they are today. Then someone asked him a more specific question about that. He responds that when he was younger, like he said earlier, he was an unbeliever, and he got involved in Yoga and Hinduism. Reluctantly he confesses that he had experiences from this involvement, but when he started having experiences with the Elder he tried to put all that aside, but there was a battle within him for two or three years, a battle between the Elder and a Guru. He didn't doubt the Elder during this time, but he wondered if there were other people like the Elder in other religions that could lead someone to God. Since he had been to the heart of Orthodoxy at Mount Athos, he decided to go to the heart of Hinduism in India. He thought that by making this trip he could decide what to choose for himself. His travels brought him to the Himalayan mountains where he encountered an avatar, a living god, a guru. When he arrived he had to climb 200 stairs, wondering what he will encounter at the top. As he was going up, however, he was praying to Elder Paisios back at the Holy Mountain. He felt the Elder next to him. The Elder was a daily presence in his life. He then heard a voice inside his head that repeated to him the First Commandment: "I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me." It was a very clear voice. And immediately when he arrived at the top of the stairs, directly in front of him were idols of Hindu gods. Then the last words he says in the video are: "These things are written in my book, whoever wants to read it." Clearly he was reluctant to admit this, but decided to do so.