The Philokalia and The Inner Life: On Passions and Prayer

By Christopher C.H. Cook

An exploration of the Greek Philokalia from the perspective of contemporary psychology, offering insight into the practice of prayer and spiritual well-being.

ISBN: 9780227173428


The Philokalia, published in Venice in 1782, is an anthology of patristic writings from the Eastern Church spanning the fourth to the fifteenth centuries, and which has been the subsequent focus of a significant revival in Orthodox spirituality. It presents an understanding of psychology and mental life which is significantly different to that usually encountered in Western Christianity. It also presents accounts of both mental wellbeing and the pathologies of the mind or soul which are radically different to contemporary secular accounts and yet which also find remarkable points of similarity with contemporary psychotherapeutic approaches, such as cognitive therapy.

This book provides an introduction to the history of the Philokalia and the philosophical, anthropological and theological influences that contributed to its formation. It presents a critical account of the pathologies of the soul, the remedies for these pathologies, and the therapeutic goals as portrayed by the authors of the Philokalia. It then offers a critical engagement of this material with a contemporary understanding of psychotherapy. Finally, it raises important questions about the relationship between thoughts and prayer.

Written with an international academic readership in mind, the book is also accessible to a more general readership and anyone interested in Christian theology, particularly in relation to mental health issues, addictions and psychotherapy.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 402

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

The Reverend Professor Christopher C.H. Cook is a Research Fellow at Durham University and teaches Spirituality and Pastoral Theology at Cranmer Hall, St John’s College, Durham. He is also a consultant psychiatrist with over twenty years of experience, and is Director of the Project for Spirituality, Theology and Health. As well as numerous papers and articles, his other published works include Alcohol, Addiction and Christian Ethics, and he was joint author of The Treatment of Drinking Problems.


Names & Abbreviations

1. Influences and Foundations
2. The Passions
3. Remedies for the Passions
4. Mental Well-Being
5. Psychotherapy
6. On Thoughts and Prayer

Appendix 1: Constituent Works of the Greek Philokalia
Appendix 2: Authors of the Works included in the Greek Philokalia


Endorsements and Reviews

Professor Cook’s study of the Philokalia from a psychological viewpoint others a fresh and original approach. For those who already know the Philokalia it will open their eyes to unexpected dimensions of the work, while to those unfamiliar with the Philokalia it will serve as a valuable and much-needed introduction.
Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

Hitherto there has been little attempt to relate the understanding of the inner life found in the Philokalia to the revolution in Western understanding of the psyche found in modern psychology. In this book, Chris Cook demonstrates the potentialities opened up by such an engagement.
Andrew Louth, Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University

An exceptional book, making accessible to the wider public the treasures of a spiritual classic. Th e author’s innovative approach makes these ancient teachings of relevance to our predicament today.
Renos K. Papadopoulos, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

Chris has provided a guide book to help the general reader through this rich resource … This rich encyclopedic work will be valued by many for a long time.
Steve Press, in Way of Life

This imaginative study succeeds in drawing out the riches of the Philokalia … a taster for a rich spiritual resource as well as a reminder of the essential yoking together of psychological and spiritual well-being.
John Twisleton, in New Direction

This is a profound work of scholarship and spiritual understanding that can be strongly recommended to believers of any religion or none.
Professor Andrew Sims, in Royal College of Psychiatrists – Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group Newsletter, No 31

Even though life in its fullness will always transcend our understanding of it, doing justice to the complexity of human life requires that psychology be more than merely an empirical or clinical discipline. This is why The Philokalia and the Inner Life: On Passion and Prayer by Christopher C.H. Cook (2011) is important for both contemporary psychology and Christian pastoral care.
Fr Gregory, Koinonia,

In making his case, Cook provides an exceptionally useful overview of the major themes of the Philokalia. … This study provides a valuable scholarly analysis of the language and ideas of the Philokalia, including a systematic examination of the evolution of its terminology and context from classical thought and the Desert Fathers.
Dorothy de F. Abrahamse, in Church History, Vol 82, No 3