The Philokalia (Ancient Greek: φιλοκαλία "love of the beautiful, the good", from φιλία philia "love" and κάλλος kallos "beauty") is "a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters"[1] of the Eastern Orthodox Church mystical hesychast tradition. They were originally written for the guidance and instruction of monks in "the practice of the contemplative life."[2] The collection was compiled in the eighteenth century by Nicodemus the Hagiorite and Macarius of Corinth.

Although these works were individually known in the monastic culture of Greek Orthodox Christianity before their inclusion in the Philokalia, their presence in this collection resulted in a much wider readership due to its translation into several languages. The earliest translations included a Church Slavonic language translation of selected texts by Paisius Velichkovsky (Dobrotolublye, Добротолю́бїе) in 1793, a Russian translation[3] by Ignatius Bryanchaninov in 1857, and a five-volume translation into Russian (Dobrotolyubie) by Theophan the Recluse in 1877. There were subsequent Romanian, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Finnish and Arabic translations.[4][5][6]

The book is a "principal spiritual text" for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches.[7] The publishers of the current English translation state that "the Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church."[8]

Philokalia (sometimes Philocalia) is also the name given to an anthology of the writings of Origen compiled by Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus. Other works on monastic spirituality have also used the same title over the years.[7][9]


Nikodemos and Makarios were monks at Mt. Athos, a mountainous peninsula in northern Greece, historically considered the geographical center of Orthodox spirituality and home to twenty monasteries. The first edition, in Greek, was published in Venice in 1782, with a second Greek edition published in Athens in 1893. All the original texts were in Greek—two of them were first written in Latin and translated into Greek in the Byzantine era.[4]

Paisius Velichkovsky's translation into Church Slavonic, Dobrotolublye (published in Moscow in 1793), included selected portions of the Philokalia, and was the version that the pilgrim in The Way of a Pilgrim carried on his journey. That book about a Russian pilgrim who is seeking advice on interior prayer helped popularize the Philokalia and its teachings in Russia. Velichkovsky's translation was the first to become widely read by the public, away from the monasteries—helped by the popularity of The Way of a Pilgrim, and the public influence of the startsy at Optina Monastery known as the Optina Elders. Two Russian language translations appeared in the 19th century, one by Ignatius Brianchaninov (1857), and Theophan the Recluse's Dobrotolubiye (1877). The latter was published in five volumes, and included texts that were not in the original Greek edition.[4][5][10]

Velichkovsky was initially hesitant to share his translation outside of the Optina Monastery walls. He was concerned that people living in the world would not have the adequate supervision and guidance of the startsy in the monastery, nor would they have the support of the liturgical life of the monks. He was finally persuaded by the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg to publish the book in 1793. Brianchanivov expressed the same concerns in his work, warning his readers that regular practice of the Jesus Prayer, without adequate guidance, could potentially cause spiritual delusion and pride, even among monks. Their concerns were contrary to the original compiler of the Philokalia, Nicodemos, who wrote that the Jesus Prayer could be used to good effect by anyone, whether monastic or layperson. All agreed that the teachings on constant inner prayer should be practiced under the guidance of a spiritual teacher, or starets.[11]

The first partial English and French translations in the 1950s were an indirect result of the Bolshevik revolution, which brought many Russian intellectuals into Western Europe. T. S. Eliot persuaded his fellow directors of the publishing house Faber and Faber to publish a partial translation into English from the Theophan Russian version, which met with surprising success in 1951. A more complete English translation, from the original Greek, began in 1979 with a collaboration between G. E. H. Palmer, Kallistos Ware, and Philip Sherrard. They released four of the five volumes of the Philokalia between 1979 and 1995.[12] In 1946, the first installment of a ten volume Romanian translation by Father Dumitru Stăniloae appeared. In addition to the original Greek text, Stăniloae added "lengthy original footnotes of his own" as well as substantially expanding the coverage of texts by Maximus the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas. This work is 4,650 pages in length.[13] Writings by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton on hesychasm also helped spread the popularity of the Philokalia, along with the indirect influence of J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, which featured The Way of a Pilgrim as a main plot element.[14]

Other Languages
čeština: Filokalia
Deutsch: Philokalie
Ελληνικά: Φιλοκαλία
español: Filocalia
Esperanto: Filokalio
galego: Filocalia
한국어: 필로칼리아
italiano: Filocalia
Kiswahili: Filokalia
magyar: Philokalia
Nederlands: Filokalia
norsk: Filokalia
polski: Filokalia
português: Filocália
română: Filocalia
русский: Добротолюбие
slovenčina: Filokalia (novovek)
српски / srpski: Добротољубље
suomi: Filokalia
svenska: Filokalia
Türkçe: Filokalya
українська: Філокалія