Recommended reading order for the Philokalia

The Traditional Path of Entry into the Philokalia
by Archimandrite Maximos Constas, Simonopetra Monastery, Mount Athos

  • St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, “Guarding the Mind and the Heart,” in A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, Peter A Chamberas, tr. (New York, 1989), 153-172.
  • St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, “Introduction to the Philokalia,” in The Philokalia, vol. 1, Constantine Cavarnos, tr. (Belmont, 2008), 27-40.

Before reading any of the works in the Philokalia, it will be helpful to read the following two items; The first is St Nikodemos’ outstanding summary of all the principle doctrines and practices that the reader will encounter on the traditional path of entry into the Philokalia, The second is his Introduction to the Philokalia, which was omitted by the English translators.

*     *     *

The following works constitute the traditional path of entry into the Philokalia. When read in this order; they gradually and wisely initiate the reader into the practices of inner attention, spiritual sobriety, and the Prayer of the Heart. Moreover, they amply demonstrate the Biblical and Patristic foundations of these practices, as well as their direct connection to the sacramental life of the Church. Having read and understood the basic principles and practices presented in these works, one may afterwards move more freely throughout the other works in the Philokalia.

  • EPh = The Philokalia, vols 1-4 translated by by G. E. H. Palmer, P Sherrard & K. Ware (London 1979-1995). 
  • WfPh = Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer af the Heart, translated from the Russian text by E. Kadloubovsky & G. E. H. Palmer (London, 1951)
  1. St Nikephoros the Hesychast, On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart (EPh 4: 194-206)
  2. Saints Kallistos and Ignatios, Directions to Hesychasts (WfPh, pp 164-270)
  3. St Hesychios, On Watchfulness and Holiness (EPh 1: 162-198)
  4. Evagrios, On Prayer (EPh 1: 85-71)
  5. A Discourse on Abba Philemon (EPh 2: 344-357)
  6. St Symeon the New Theologian, On Faith (EPh 4: 16-24)
  7. St Symeon the New Theologian, The Three Methods of Prayer (EPh 4: 67-75)
  8. St Gregory Palamas, In Defense of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness (= Triads 1.2) (EPh 4: 332-342)
  9. St Gregory of Sinai, On the Signs of Grace and Delusion (EPh 4: 257-286)

The list given above is an outline of a talk given by Archimandrite Maximos at a clergy conference in 2014. Listen to that entire talk and the associated questions and answers here:

Presentation on the Philokalia
Questions & Answers

All the talks from this seminar may be heard at this link. Scroll about halfway down the page to the 2014 Clergy Seminar; Fr Maximos's talk is Presentation 3 at this event.

The well-known four-volume collection of the Philokalia in English, translated by G E H Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), is available as a set. Separately, the fifth and final volume of this translation has just now been published; another translation, by Anna Skoubourdis is also available.

A separate translation of the Philokalia, by Constantine Cavarnos, is available in two volumes:

Volume One | Volume Two

This translation reads much more naturally in English and I prefer it. For a thoughtful comparison of these translations, I recommend Kevin Edgecombe's article The Philokalia Englished.