"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hesychasm and Globalization

As I am forever reminding my students, geography is crucial to understanding religion, religious history, religious conflict, and the diversity of religious practices. As the late Archpriest Robert Anderson used always to insist, "everything in the East is local custom." The nature of those customs, and their transformation as the geographical context changes, is the subject of a new book:

Christopher D. L. Johnson, Globalization of Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer: Contesting Contemplation (London/NewYork: Continuum, 2010), 224pp.

The publishers, Continuum, provides the following blurb:
The meditative prayer practices known as Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer have played an important role in the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This book explores how these prayer practices have spread from a primarily monastic setting within Orthodox Christianity, into general Orthodox Christian usage, and finally into wider contemporary Western culture. As a result of this gradual geographic shift from a local to a global setting, caused mainly by immigration and dissemination of related texts, there has been a parallel shift of interpretation causing disagreement. By analyzing ongoing conversations on the practices, this book shows how such disagreements are due to differences in the way groups understand the ideas of authority and tradition. These fundamental ideas lie beneath much of the current discussion on particular aspects of the practices and also contribute to the wider academic debate over the globalization and appropriation of religious traditions.
I look forward to having this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. 

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