Turning the Heart to God is a partial translation of Saint Theophan's larger work, The Path to Salvation: A Manuel of Spiritual Transformation. Before reading either of these books it is important to consult your Spiritual Father, as they can be easily misunderstood and misapplied which could lead to demonic delusion. Turning the Heart to God is a book that details varying spiritual conditions, how to recognize them, and how they are healed--this being the case, it must be noted that it is extremely dangerous to preform surgery on yourself and it is thus necessary to have a Spiritual Father to consult before, during, and after reading this book.
A Short Biography of Saint Theophan the Recluse
Saint Theophan the Recluse, born in 1815, just after the Napolean's invasion of Russia in 1812, found himself in the middle of a cultural transition.1 Several years after being ordained a hieromonk (a monk who is also a priest) in 1841, Saint Theophan travelled to Jerusalem where he helped establish a Russian ecclesiastical presence.2 Over the next six years he learned Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and French, studied the Church Fathers, and stayed in several monasteries on Mount Sinai and Mount Athos. In 1855 he was "raised to the rank of archimandrite"3. Two years later he became the rector of St. Petersburg Theological Academy and two years after that the Bishop of Tambov (1859). Bishop Theophan would later be transferred to oversee the Diocese of Vladimir and Suzdal (1863) and become Father Superior of the Visha Hermitage (1866).4 Regardless of his rapid increase in rank and responsibility, Bishop Theophan's main desire was to live a simple life of seclusion. In 1872 this desire was realized. From then until the end of his life in 1894 he only received a handful of visitors. Saint Theophan corresponded to Spiritual Children by means of letters. "He received twenty to forty letters everyday, and responded to them faithfully."5 In addition to his spiritual guidance and correspondence, he translated into Russian the five volumes of the Philokalia, which took nearly two decades to complete, and a handful of other works.6
Saint Theophan was an intellectual well versed in the Church Fathers and wholly imbued with the mind of the Church. The insights contained in this book are penetratingly deep and occasionally hard to fully grasp. He details, in an almost psychotherapeutic way, the ramifications of deep spiritual slumber and varying degrees of spiritual lethargy. He uses the parable of the prodigal son in a profound manner throughout the entire book in order to illustrate the means of coming to yourself (waking), decided to get out of bed and do something (determination/resolve), and actually doing something (action). He dissects each of these phases, where people get caught or stuck, and how to get out of the mire in which you may find yourself. The entire book is composed of subthemes based on these three phases. This book is an observation of man's soul and the things that lurk there. Saint Theophan's main goal in writing it is revealed in the title of the whole work: The Path to Salvation: A Manuel of Spiritual Transformation. I would highly recommend this book provided, of course, that you speak to your Spiritual Father prior to reading it.
Review originally published on www.BenCabe.com/blog
1. Turning the Heart to God, xiii.
2. ibid, xxiv
3. ibid, xxv
4. ibid, xxvi
5. ibid, xxxi
6. ibid, xxxii