The Spiritual Tradition in Eastern Christianity

Ascetic Psychology, Mystical Experience, and Physical Practices

Bradford D.T., Leuven: Peeters, 2016


The Spiritual Tradition in Eastern Christianity is a comprehensive survey of the means, goals, and motivations of the ascetic life as represented in texts spanning the fourth and the nineteenth century. Contemporary examples are also included. The main themes are the dynamics of the soul, the disabling effects of the passions, mental and physical ascetism, the desirable condition of dispassion, and the experience of deification. A variety of topics are addressed, including hesychast prayer, religious weeping, the spiritual senses, dream interpretation, luminous visions, the holy ‘fool’, ascetic demonology, and pain in ascetic practice. Typical ascetic and mystical experiences are interpreted from the psychological and the neuroscientific perspective. Comparative analyses based on Sufism, Vedantic mysticism, and especially early Buddhist psychology highlight distinctive features of the Christian ascetic life. Major figures such as Evagrius Ponticus, Maximos the Confessor, Isaac the Syrian, and Symeon the New Theologian receive extensive individual consideration.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents


Chapter 1 – The Powers of the Soul

1.1 The Incensive Power

1.2 The Desiring Power

1.3 The Intellect

1.4 Image and Archetype

1.5 Brightly Shining Mind

Chapter 2 – The Heart

2.1 Spiritual Anatomy

2.2 Hesychast Prayer

2.3 Four Phases of Prayer

2.4 Intracorporeal Space

2.5 Posture and Respiration

2.6 Attention

2.7 Two Patterns of Autonomic Arousal

2.8 Parallels in Other Traditions

2.9 The Influence of Sufism

Chapter 3 – The Luminous Presence

3.1 Properties of the Luminous Presence

3.2 The Hesychast Controversy

3.3 Divine and Demonic Visions

3.4 Four Kinds of Luminous Visions

3.5 Focal-Extracorporeal Light

3.6 Global-Extracorporeal Light

3.7 Corporeal Light

3.8 Intracorporeal Light

3.9 A Complex Visionary Experience

3.10 Chromatic Visionary Light

3.11 Visionary Light and Divine Omnipresence

Chapter 4 0 Sleep, Dreams, and Prayer

4.1 Prayer During Sleep

4.2 Sleep Deprivation

4.3 Dream Interpretation

4.4 Visions and Revelations While Asleep

4.5 Illustration of Prayer While Dreaming

4.6 Illustration of Mystical Experience While Asleep

4.7 Dreamless Sleep and Mystical Experience

Chapter 5 – The Spiritual Senses

5.1 Spiritual Perception

5.2 Sensory Perception

5.3 One and Many

5.4 Mystical Synesthesia

5.5 Spiritual Odor

5.6 Smell and Demonic Entrapment

Chapter 6 – The Passions

6.1 Eight Dispositions

6.2 The Five Hindrances

6.3 The Constructing Activities

6.4 The Demons

6.5 Anchorite and Cenobite

6.6 Psychotherapy of the Passions

6.7 Illustration of Evagrian Psychotherapy

6.8 Demons, Delirium, and Migraine

Chapter 7 – Stillness and Dispassion

7.1 The Delicacy of Stillness

7.2 Nipsis and Attention

7.3 Nipsis and Emotion

7.4 Nipsis and Memory

7.5 The Permanence of Dispassion

7.6 A Dispassionate ‘Fool’

Chapter 8 – Acedia

8.1 Depleted Fervor

8.2 Acedia and Physical Symptoms

Chapter 9 – Pride and Vainglory

9.1 Vainglory and Social Display

9.2 Clothing and Other Possessions

9.3 Vainglory and Cognition

9.4 A Psychosis of Pride and Vainglory

Chapter 10 – Fornication

10.1 Morbid Defluxions

10.2 Intoxication and Sexual Fantasy

10.3 Fornication and Sense-Desire

Chapter 11 – Gluttony

11.1 Diverse Expressions of Gluttony

11.2 Fasting

11.3 A Syndrome of Ascetic Fasting

11.4 The Precedence of Gluttony over Fornication

11.5 The Desire for Immortality

Chapter 12 – Physical Practices

12.1 Surface and Depth Interventions

12.2 Discomfort and Pain

12.3 The Prostration

12.4 Face, Eyes, and Gaze

Chapter 13 – Evagrius on Impassioned Mental Activity

13.1 Thoughts

13.2 Illustration of Objective Perception

Chapter 14 – Images of Bodily Corruption

14.1 The Buddhist Meditation on Foulness

14.2 The Ascetic Utility of Raw Emotion

Chapter 15 – Maximos on Impassioned Mental Activity

15.1 Conceptual Images

15.2 Illustration of Objective Perception

Chapter 16 – Religious Weeping

16.1 Tears

16.2 Weeping

16.3 Isaac the Syrian on Tears

16.4 Permanent Autonomic Change

Chapter 17 – The Body in Dreams and Fantasy

17.1 The Imaginal Body

17.2 A Principle of Mental Transformation

Chapter 18 – The Deified Body

18.1 The Flesh

18.2 Weightiness

18.3 Illusory Movement

18.4 Weightiness and Cosmology

Chapter 19 – The Remembrance of Death

19.1 Fear and Love

19.2 An Imaginal Practice

19.3 The Thought of Death

19.4 Change in the Practice

19.5 An Imitation of Christ

Chapter 20 – Three Forms of Mystical Experience

20.1 Near-Absorption

20.2 The Ecstatic Vision

20.3 The Imageless Grasp

20.4 Mystical Experience in Temporal Perspective

Chapter 21 – Maximos on Dispassion and Deification

21.1 Eros

21.2 Preliminary Dispassions

21.3 Advanced Dispassions

21.4 Inhibition of Perceptual Experience

21.5 Deification



Appendix A: Sources and Terms

Appendix B: Ascetic Theologians

Appendix C: Biographical Chronology of Symeon the New Theologian

Appendix D: Visionary Mysticism in Symeon the New Theologian

Appendix E: Deification and Cognitive Inhibition in Maximos the Confessor



Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *