Mount Athos: A place shrouded in mist and mystery


To find his way back home, Odysseus has to visit the kingdom of the dead, Hades, to get directions from a prophet or clairvoyant.

The description of Odysseus arriving at Hades reminds me a little bit of Mount Athos this misty evening.

“…the outer limits, the Ocean River’s bounds
where Cimmerian people have their homes — their realm and city shrouded in mist and cloud.”

Mount Athos, this theocracy and tax haven rolled into one, this place full of contradictions,  of ancient myth and legend, is also shrouded in thick, mysterious mist and dark clouds this evening as the dull, grey waters lap against the harbour walls…

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By the time he makes the descent into Hades, Odysseus has undergone a long journey filled with difficulties, losses and sacrifices of all kinds, forcing him to confront his mortality.

Isn’t the same true of all of us? Don’t we too, like Odysseus, have to face our mortality, consciously confront the bitter knowledge of the nothingness and finite nature of our lives, something that only a vast amount of experience can bring, before we can find out way home to our true spiritual home, to God?

Certainly, it is true of me, dear readers. If I had not had to endure such a grinding, relentless difficulties, losses and sacrifices over such a long period of time, and had to face so much real danger targeted by my proven readers like George Soros and Alexis Tsipras, I would never have developed so much lack of faith in myself and in my ability to solve problems, and so much faith in God.

Odysseus has to open a special path into the Kingdom of the dead by performing a ritual. He digs a ditch and pours the blood of a sheep he has slaughtered into it. Then, he calls out for the ghosts he wants to see. They have to make a big effort to get to him and they have to drink the life giving blood, before they can speak to him and give him the information he needs.

The pilgrims heading for Mount Athos also have use a special path, obtain a three day pass after a complicated procedure, get on a special boat, have their passes checked on arrival and adhere to strict rules when they arrive on the monk’s republic.

In the Kingdom of the Dead, Odysseus encounters a supernatural darkness.

“The eye of the Sun can never
flash his rays through the dark and bring them light,
not when he climbs the starry skies or when he wheels
back down from the heights to touch the earth once more —
an endless, deadly night overhangs those wretched men.”

Might the same not be said about the crooked Abbot Efraim of Vatopedi? Doesn’t a deadly spiritual night hang over this wretched man? Must he not be totally blind to the spiritual light, that he invests all his time and energy in swindlung the Greek state out of billions?

Efraim of Vatopedi and Theodekti of St John the Forerunner prove that it is possible to go to services, sing the chants, repeat the phrases, and have absolutely no belief in God, and not even know it. Not even know that their god is money, praise and power.

Simply going to a physical, geographical space or going through external rituals will not give anyone knowledge of God. God is a mystery to our senses. We cannot see him, hear him, touch him. He is a mystery to our reason. We cannot name him, classify him, divide him into parts, control or manipulate him. God is spirit, not a category of the visible, external, material world. He is a completely different category.

We also have to open a special, spiritual path inside ourselves to get to know God.

For a person fixated on their sense experience, God is just the sum of all eternal rituals, buildings, words given credibility by government, society, external authorities, tradition. Isn’t it accurate to say of a person who is surrounded by the signs and symbols of God, but who cannot see God, life, light, love, that an endless, deadly night hangs over them?

Monks are supposed to go to monasteries to die to the world. Instead, not a few of the monks seem to die to God. Eternal night. “The eye of the Sun can never flash his rays through the dark and bring them light,” as Homer might say.

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