The Optina Elders Series brings to light the lives and teachings of the great Elders of Optina for the English-speaking world. A long-standing monastery that was renovated at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a center for Russian staretz (venerated elders and teachers), the monastery attracted crowds of Russian seekers including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. Saint Paisius Velichkovsky was instrumental in bringing the virtually lost hesychastic tradition of Orthodox spirituality to Russia in the eighteenth century, and the Optina Monastery acted as nerve center for its spread throughout the Russian land. The volumes in this Series are compiled from personal memoirs of each elder or his disciples, journals, notes and correspondence.
In this short space, we offer only a tantalizing bit of the hard-won teaching which Volume 7 contains. Elder Barsanuphius on evil thoughts: ''Is it possible to say that someone who believes in God, loves Him and hopes in Him can conceive blasphemies against Him? Obviously, these are not his thoughts, but are whispered by the enemy of our salvation, for whom it is most advantageious for a man to fall into despair, to consider himself to have fallen away from God -- for then he would be entirely in the hands of the devil.' 833 pp.