Hesychasm was a big surprise. Here was wisdom, turning the light of awareness around to behold the presence of glory at the heart of awareness. Here was turning, metanoia, uniting heaven and earth, whilst seeing, theoria, united uncreated light with uncreated glory. The practice of turning the light of awareness around was here still sustaining the practice of seeing to purify and illumine the heart. This very ancient wisdom practice of metanoia had always dwelt at the heart of Biblical and Patristic wisdom, but here it was again, together with the foundational practice of in-folded seeing, theoria, joyously indwelling the heart of Orthodox Hesychasm. It was now clear that without turning the light of awareness back and centering in the glory of God’s revelatory presence, there would be no Hesychasm, no elders and no saints. Saint Silouan the Athonite and Saint Sophrony the Hesychast were both illumined by the wisdom of turning and seeing, gracefully inspiring all hallowing of God’s Holy Name. Now they were both a reminder that Name-hallowing purifies and illumines the heart, sustaining wholesome right-glorification of God, which is Holy Orthodoxy. It was this that Saint Sophrony the Hesychast imparted to a young seeker that wrote to him for guidance over fifty-five years ago, turning the light of his attention round to awaken to the uncreated light of deifying awareness. Hesychasm turned out to be wholesome Orthodox Christian wisdom, not an optional luxury for an elite or exotic few, but an ineffable turning that releases the uncreated energy of glory to all.
It was something of a shock to find that, in Holy Orthodoxy, the wisdom of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and saints was still alive and functioning well in some contemporary elders and saints, despite the fact that the prevailing currents of contemporary secularism were hurtling in the opposite direction. It was a surprise to discover there were sacred eddies where the prevailing current spun back on itself, opening to very ancient wisdom springs that were renewing Sacred Tradition from within. It was a joy to find Hesychasm pointing awareness back to awaken the eye of the heart, empowering wisdom’s single eye of insight, unveiling glorification. It was a shock to find that in-seeing hearts contain not only heaven and earth, but the uncreated and all creation too. Abiding at centre, light’s turning steps back and sees glory as glory is seen by God, sustaining insight far transcending all that may be grasped or comprehended. Turning, without seeing, may amount to some sort of repentance, but it is never to be confused with hallowing illumination. Turning the light around, in true seeing, unites the mind and the heart, activating the uncreated, creative energies of wisdom and glory. Here was Hesychasm working with these uncreated energies of grace, wisdom and glory, regenerating soporific oblivion with inspiration, clarifying cloudy obscuration with cloudless clarity.
Discovering that seeing is not forced visual perception but humble awareness turning the light of awareness round to abide in pure awareness, here was awareness resting in the presence of timeless presence, unveiling wisdom awake to the timeless presence of glory. Suddenly, hell’s separations were falling away and heaven was flowering nearer than near, radiant in flawless clarity. Here, as in the temple of old, glory was rising from the foundation of a throne, ascending to a crown, seven unveilings gathered like ancient roots of wisdom’s living tree, whose living crown has never withered. Seven openings, or was it seven eyes? hidden within every awakened heart, are now as one heart here at the cascading crown, one light, one glory manifesting here as manifold mysteries of glory. Here, clouds of glory dissolve as an elixir of light crystallises, turning light right round, as wisdom sees and glory seen. Here, the Father of light, as source of light, generates light from light, sustaining the Son in whom the Spirit abides. Proceeding from the Father, the Spirit indwells the Son, returning with glory to the Father, right here in the awakened heart. What had seemed such a distant notion and uncertain possibility was direct now, even immediate, in the living practice of turned seeing. As wisdom turns back, again and again, in time, here, wisdom is timeless presence of ineffable completeness, present presence completing incompleteness, once and for all.
Years later, stillness is still confirming what wisdom was uncovering, releasing mind and body as heaven descends to earth with crowning glory that is creative with heaven’s own uncreated creativity. Here, original openness is ever-restful action and ever-active stillness. All mysteries of glory are still returning to the Father, ever-present in the Son, ever-hallowing in the Holy Spirit. Pure attention still completes what was incomplete, undoing lack without strain or stress of any sort. Self-emptying awareness is ever-present, ever-aware of God’s presence. Hesychasm is ineffable stillness silencing the strains and stresses that struggle to be worthy of grace. It is increasingly impossible to say what stillness is, but silence says it when light is glory. It is less and less necessary to explain what wisdom means, even supposing that were even possible. Hallowing the Name, glory comes, without saying how or why. To look back is to meet glory still to come, shattering common sense. To write is a kind of relief, even if nobody is really interested to read what is written. There is communion in sharing with those not yet born, what was so generously given and acknowledged with gratitude. There is joy in turning the light of awareness round and discovering round glory shattering time right now. Wisdom still discovers a new heaven and a new earth, here, where a communion of saints is all that is left of religion. Light turns and glory sees as wisdom sees and is seen in glory, when glory knows as, by wisdom, it is known.