A LETTER FROM ATHOS (scenario for the film) – Иверский Орский женский монастырь

A LETTER FROM ATHOS (scenario for the film)

Man, from the point of creation, is given a need of thirst. He wants to drink, to eat, he desires comfort and entertainment, he seeks interaction, yearns for creativity, knowledge, new impressions, friendship, love. He has a need to speak and to be heard. He wants to listen, there’s an interest within him. He strives to quench his thirst, in all its various forms, for the entirety of his life. And once he has gained everything, he still has that thirst for the unknown left within, a longing for something he doesn’t know, something he hasn’t yet experienced. He longs, he yearns, he’s not satisfied. That is just the way we were created by God; if one doesn’t dream, it means one’s soul is dead. Saints grow indifferent to everything of the world, but it does not mean that their thirst has ceased, it’s just that it has changed its course and direction. They hunger and thirst for the heavenly, for the spiritual. Man cannot get to know God in His full measure, it is beyond our ability. But it’s still the greater Good. That means there will always be the unknown. That means that movement, dynamics, and life will not cease. That means there will always be a point.


Greetings to you, my dear friend. It’s exactly how I’ll address you, with love and sincerity, despite the pivotal differences in our views: my precious, dear Orthodoxy and your dismal, bleak nihilism. Everything could change. I’ve been a witness to that more than once. It’s just that, may it only change for the better… Please, o Lord.

I’m writing to you from the Holy Mount of Athos, sending you my sunny, spring mood. It’s still early spring back home in Russia. It’s still all frosty and snowy in March back there, and here in Greece it’s already pretty warm. It’s all green here on the foreland, the so called “Paschal blossom”, or lilac, is in full bloom, bumblebees are fluttering around, and the birds are chirping. I breathe in the fresh, spring air deeply, joyfully, and wholeheartedly exclaim in delight, “Glory to Thee, O God, glory to Thee!”. I can’t get the last conversation we shared before I left out of my head. Or should I say, an argument, because we couldn’t succeed at holding a conversation. My extreme zeal is to blame. I ask you to forgive me, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. It’s not how you are supposed to talk about God, He should be spoken about with love and long-suffering. So what I couldn’t convey face-to-face, I’ll do my best to express on paper.

I now, praise God, have no desire to overargue you. I only have the desire to share my treasure of faith with you. God help me to do it sensibly…

You sincerely wonder how you can believe something that cannot be seen, touched, smelled, or experienced. I’ll partially agree with you that with our senses, such as sight, touch, or hearing, it is difficult to behold God. But, pay attention to this, we do not see many things in this world, we do not feel them, how much is left out of the bounds of the spectrum of our sight, the scale of sound, how many subtle things, unavailable to touch.

Unbelievers often refer to science. But it’s the modern science that says that humanity on this stage of development sees, hears, feels, not only with the senses, but also with modern ultra precise devices a truly small percent of material and energy of the universe. The greatest portion is left out of the bounds of our knowledge. Absolutely elusive in hypotheses and guesses. All of this that is beyond today’s human possibilities, the scientists call the dark materials or the dark energy. Not in the sense of its negativity, but in the sense of it being unknown. And that which we do not know, is much greater than what we have experienced. You say: to see, to hear, to touch, to know. But knowledge has long divided from the senses. Modern science is no longer experiencing this world by touch, and has for long. We have gone out of these bounds. The scientists make their discoveries, already not just by looking through a microscope or a telescope, the greater portion of discoveries is made on paper through mathematical formulas and physical equations hypothetically. In the course of our conversations you once fervently said that to believe in God you must be out of your mind. I do not know what exactly you have put into these words, but in part, I agree: it is indeed so. If by sanity we understand logic, logical rational thinking. Here I’ll say to you, and any scientist will confirm this: the world is much wider than we can comprehend. Let’s take the quantum physics.  To be in this field of science, one must partially give up on logic, the mind must become irrational, otherwise everything will crumble, break, clash. You trust your mind very much, your personal being seems objective, conclusive. You are the center of the universe. Well try to get to the height of the bird’s flight, and from there you’re already a point. Let’s fly higher, farther. From the space you no longer exist, and the Earth does not seem endless. Higher and farther – and in the blackness of space disappears the Earth. And the Sun became but a small star. Go farther – and there’s no sun. Other stars, other galaxies, farther and farther. You’re already not even the dust of the universe, the very objectivity of your being became an illusion, and we can still fly and fly… And that is about space, what about time? A snippet of your life is worth something, there are so many events and impressions in it. And in a thousand years, either forth or back in time? What about a million? A billion? Your life is not just lost in this scale, it loses its objectivity, it’s no longer even a moment, it just isn’t, at all. If we cannot understand such things as the endlessness of time and space, how then can we understand God? The insanity of faith comes to know the unknowable. In order to enter the field of the supernatural, one must leave the field of the rational. There, out of the boundaries of your mind, outside that bound, there’s life. Not a life of mind, but life of the spirit that goes according to its own, and often very different, laws. But it’s not an illusion, it is objective. The way the endlessness of space is objective, the point of your physical being. And all of a sudden, from the center of the universe, from “something” we become “nothing”. Nothing by ourselves, senselessness, zero. This weird reality makes us fall silent, tremble in endlessness, in the blackness of space and time. 

And in this sad, eerie loneliness we start to need HIM. Him Who knows the point. Him Who is the point. God is in the sphere of outside the borders of our mind. But He can be known. This antipathy can be explained if we divide the notions of mind and reason. The mind contains reason, but it also lives different, subtle charismatic properties of our soul, that do experience the spiritual. 

This is the state of prayer that by its nature differs from reflection. When the mind prays, it does not think within the frame of the usual. The state of the praying mind is not at all like wandering the labyrinths of logic. The praying mind acquires the objective knowledge charismatically, through inspiration. Here on the Holy Mount, are still retained the notions of the state of mind in prayer, and not just notions, it is practiced daily and nightly. This practice is known as noetic doing. The principle of which is the state of mind outside of logic, reflection. Reflection is subjective, for it is constantly connected to doubt. A person is inclined to either this or that. Faith is not inquiring conviction. It’s a state that does not need process. The Lord spoke of faith in the Gospel like this: “If you believe and do not doubt in your heart”. How precisely He described the state of prayer with one sentence – not doubt in your heart! Faith is not testing, not a controversy: yes or no. It’s a short “yes” that is like a bolt of lightning. A moment – and you’re in the light of mind. Everything is understood for you with no testing or reasoning. In the earthly life they call it: dawned on me. There you go – and that’s it! You yourself, not understanding this, said a very correct phrase: “To believe, you must be out of your mind”. 

Truly! You must consciously give up on the worldly, crude, rational, logical mind, to live subtle spiritual states.   

In the world, there is a lot which we are unable to comprehend, but are able to live, not understanding the nature of the phenomenon. Isn’t it a pity for you, you lessen the endlessness of this world to the narrowness of your own ability to understand it? I only believe in that which I can understand – how limited. Don’t you want to go out of the frames and borders of your logic? Exactly, go out, stepping there, beyond the line of your mind, there’s a whole world there, that your mind cannot contain, but that which a person can live with other means of the soul. Logic isn’t the whole me. I am wider, deeper. What I’m telling you right now, isn’t  philosophy, it’s the life of the Athos monks. The usual life in the state of prayer. They do not speak of it, they live it. Naturally. Coming to the Holy Mount, they gradually are taught, by their elders and teachers, to live prayer in the state of no images or imagination. For the logical, image thinking to not contain them in the bounds of the understandable and crude. After years of dedication and persistence, they, still limited by the laws of flesh, go out into the endlessness of the moving toward God. They become spiritual eagles, able to ascend high above the earthly. And if fleshly people look at the horizon, the spiritual from their height, see far beyond it. You think that logic is your treasure, but in reality it’s chains that do not allow you to go far beyond it.

Here on the Holy Mount, there are many illiterate monks, illiterate in earthly sciences, etiquette, unable to speak beautifully. But among them there are those that you feel small, nothing next to them, acutely experiencing that theres a giant of spirit before you. His world is boundless in comparison to yours. You’re nothing, a pathetic, a lowlife with all your knowledge, talents and abilities, in the bounds of the earthly, crude being. And at the same time, they have long stepped outside these bounds into the spiritual endlessness. This doesn’t need to be proved, they don’t really strive to. You’ll just feel it with no words. There are situations in life when words aren’t needed. Forgive me, maybe I’m speaking in complex terms, unclearly. I want to say, only a fool understands everything. A thinking person always faces a mystery on every step and in connection to this, always sees his own limitations. Constraint, being captive to borders, that humanity has always wanted to broaden. This has always been like this in science, culture, religion. A person not thirsting for knowledge is a dead person, boring, wingless. One of the venerable fathers of our time said to his disciples: “Oh how I would love for you to become poets. Poets not in the literature sense, but spiritually. Fly outside of your earthly limitation, fly high. Let them say of you: they’re out of their minds. May we be fools, out of our minds for Christ Whom we have loved and desired. We need insanity for spiritual poetry”.