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John Cassian (c. 365-c. 435) journeyed to the West to found monasteries in Marseilles and the region of Provence. Conferences is his masterpiece, a study of the Egyptian ideal of the monk.


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John Cassian (c. 365-c. 435) journeyed to the West to found monasteries in Marseilles and the region of Provence. Conferences is his masterpiece, a study of the Egyptian ideal of the monk.

30 review for John Cassian: Conferences

  1. 5 out of 5

    Josh Wilhelm

    This was the first book (of ten) which I am reading for a course on the “Classics of Christian Spirituality” at Regent College this term. John Cassian’s Conferences are a series of visits by Cassian and his partner Germanus to monks in the African desert in the form of a dialogue and entered on such “spiritual discussions” as “The Goal of the Monk,” “Prayer,” and “On Perfection.” Cassian and Germanus are somewhat of spiritual tourists examining the life of the Egyptian monk. In this edition, This was the first book (of ten) which I am reading for a course on the “Classics of Christian Spirituality” at Regent College this term. John Cassian’s Conferences are a series of visits by Cassian and his partner Germanus to monks in the African desert in the form of a dialogue and entered on such “spiritual discussions” as “The Goal of the Monk,” “Prayer,” and “On Perfection.” Cassian and Germanus are somewhat of spiritual tourists examining the life of the Egyptian monk. In this edition, nine of John Cassian’s famous “Conferences” have been selected and translated by Colm Luibheid and introduced by Owen Chadwick. Cassian stood at a unique position between East and West. Fluent in both Latin and Greek, Cassian travelled all around the Mediterranean, eventually bringing Egyptian monastic wisdom back to the West. Cassian’s place in the history of Christian spirituality was ensured when St. Benedict advocated for the reading of the Conferences in his famous Rule. Admittedly, I find myself quite skeptical of the whole eremitic monastic movement - likely due to the strangeness of the thing - and have a hard time believing that such genuine spiritual hunger and wisdom could come from isolated desert dwellers. Cassian's Conferences present a formidable challenge to my thinking. 3.5/5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I did not read the whole thing, as it is incredibly long. However, I was impressed that a 5th century ascetic classic is so accessible and readable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    John Cassian lived from 360-435 AD, during the life of Augustine of Hippo. The Conferences is his primary writing, a series of twenty-four dialogues (conferences) with various holy monks. The most interesting of these are conferences three and thirteen where we find discussion on free will and predestination. During Cassian's life the church was experiencing the debate between Augustine and Pelagius. Pelagius argued humans were born more or less in the same situation as our first parents, Adam John Cassian lived from 360-435 AD, during the life of Augustine of Hippo. The Conferences is his primary writing, a series of twenty-four dialogues (conferences) with various holy monks. The most interesting of these are conferences three and thirteen where we find discussion on free will and predestination. During Cassian's life the church was experiencing the debate between Augustine and Pelagius. Pelagius argued humans were born more or less in the same situation as our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinless. Born sinless, we have Adam as a bad example which we follow. Thus, Jesus dies for us and we can freely choose to accept his forgiveness. On the other side was Augustine, who argued that in Adam all humanity fell into sin. We are born sinful and guilty, unable to save ourselves. The only way any can be saved is if God gives us life, gifts us with faith. Cassian's work, much less well-known, comes in between these two. It has often been called "semi-Pelagianism" and it was condemned by a church council sometime in the 500s. Yet it could just as easily be called "semi-Augustinianism". Cassian argues that sometimes humans choose God and sometimes God compels humans. His is a sort of mystical theology, saying we can't really know how it works but perhaps in the end we both freely choose God and he compels us. For any who are interested in such theological questions, reading conferences 3 and 13 would be enriching. The rest of the conferences are at times helpful and at times a lightning bolt from a foreign world. There is a reason this has never caught on as a devotional in the same way as The Imitation of Christ, for example. You can read it as a devotional and you will find things that challenge you. But unless you are a monk living in the desert, you will find much either just weird, or even just plain wrong. One monk tells of how he was married and felt called by God to forsake the world and go into the desert. He just assumed his wife would do the same and when she refused, he divorced her to spend his life in solitude, contemplating God. My reaction - what a jerk. Another story is told of a monk who was "dead to the world" for twenty years, so he refused to leave his cell to help his brother save a farm animal that had fallen in a ditch. To me, it seems Jesus would want people to honor their marriage vows and help those in need. Such practical things are much more important than meditating in the desert. Of course, both those stories are from the final two conferences and there was a lot of thought provoking parts earlier. Maybe I was just getting tired of it. Thus, I give four stars for the conferences on free will and predestination and three stars for most of the rest of it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    There were things I did not like about this book, mainly because there are elements of the desert monastic tradition that I have serious problems with, but a charitable reading will find much rich treasure for the spiritual life in this book. This was more humane, pastoral and balanced than I expected, and, as C.S. Lewis has said in his preface to St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation, the errors and blind spots of the past are not our errors and blind spots and so old books like this have much to There were things I did not like about this book, mainly because there are elements of the desert monastic tradition that I have serious problems with, but a charitable reading will find much rich treasure for the spiritual life in this book. This was more humane, pastoral and balanced than I expected, and, as C.S. Lewis has said in his preface to St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation, the errors and blind spots of the past are not our errors and blind spots and so old books like this have much to say to us by way of correction. I especially liked the explanation of spiritual reading of the Scriptures (4 fold), Cassian's insights on the life of unceasing prayer (its purpose, theology and practice), on spiritual discernment being the mother and guide of all virtues, on balance in one's spiritual walk, and on the (in our day lost) practice of exposing and confessing our sins to others who can help us grow in sanctification or "purity of heart," without which no one will attain to God's kingdom. Also, the reception and respect of tradition and received wisdom of the elders/ancients with a heart of humility (though not without critical interaction) and the practices of fasting, meditation on Scripture, and other hard spiritual disciplines could help the lazy and confused church find strength and direction today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C Lucas

    This books is simply a manual for those who would be monks, written by one who sought out advice from monastics in the Holy Land, Levant and Egypt. That's was its purpose, but its broader goal is instruction in prayer. It's basically a technical manual. If one wants to understand how to pray (a task which might seem so simple that we'd wonder at the need for a technical manual), one must understand the pre-requisites of effective, earnest prayer. And herein is where this work, composed seventeen This books is simply a manual for those who would be monks, written by one who sought out advice from monastics in the Holy Land, Levant and Egypt. That's was its purpose, but its broader goal is instruction in prayer. It's basically a technical manual. If one wants to understand how to pray (a task which might seem so simple that we'd wonder at the need for a technical manual), one must understand the pre-requisites of effective, earnest prayer. And herein is where this work, composed seventeen centuries ago, explodes with its practicality and deep understanding of man's psyche. Cassian's voice is wonderfully anachronistic. Many of his assumptions and observations took me aback: how could someone have this much insight into our cogitations and our universal inability to understand mindfulness before 20th century psychology, before westerners had come into contact with the many rich resources of Buddhist practitioners for those seeking (any form of) "spirituality?"! T

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zecchaeus Jensen

    I think I finished it, but at least read most, I believe.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fr. Jedidiah Tritle

    Surprisingly practical for the contemporary spiritual life, St. John Cassian shares his wisdom concerning growth in the monastic spiritual life. It's important to separate his understanding of monasticism in the Eastern Church from that of the West. While the West is characterized by community life governed by a rule (Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.), the Eastern tradition gives the monk much more personal freedom to do with as he or she sees fit. Essentially, Cassian teaches the reader how to Surprisingly practical for the contemporary spiritual life, St. John Cassian shares his wisdom concerning growth in the monastic spiritual life. It's important to separate his understanding of monasticism in the Eastern Church from that of the West. While the West is characterized by community life governed by a rule (Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.), the Eastern tradition gives the monk much more personal freedom to do with as he or she sees fit. Essentially, Cassian teaches the reader how to govern their own spiritual growth in cooperation with a spiritual director, taking wisdom from their elders, and living the Christian life in an increasingly secular and apathetic world--all pertinent for today, as well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    I read this many years ago and all I remember is really disliking the way his neck is distorted in the cover image. (I dislike most of the covers in this series, but this one the most.) I just tried rereading it and it seemed boring. Shrug. I guess I'd recommend this more to those interested in the historical development of religious ideas than in theology per se. Cassian's writing is clear enough but not especially interesting or moving.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Harman

    Lots of good material to consider for personal edification if you know enough history and philosophy to translate Cassian's worldview to our own. Often he struck me as dangerously close to espousing Gnostic views of the body and physical world, adhering a bit too stubbornly to some Neo-Platonisms less easily accommodated to orthodoxy than others. Passages on prayer and meditation on Scripture were superb and helpful. Do your research before reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    I consider the reading of this book to be a watershed event in my life. I don't recommend reading it as a matter of curiosity or to gain some intellectual knowledge, however. Such approaches will obscure its benefits.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    A fascinating read for anyone interested in the spiritual life or monasticism. I blogged on this here: http://pastormack.wordpress.com/2014/...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christian Proano

    Lectura rapida, interesante exposición del Padre Nuestro que podría servir para catequizar/discipular. Util también cuando recomienda que debemos preparar la mente antes de la oración.

  13. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Have had this on my shelves for years ... and meant to read it. Our parish youth minister, Frank, referred to it last November and it piqued my interest. Thanks Frank!

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Hain

    Want to understand the teachings of the desert fathers? Here is 700+ pages of first hand account of their thoughts, questions and teachings.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I find most of these early monastic texts inspiring as they call me back to my roots, ask me to find a truly radical spirituality.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I liked Cassian's value of moderation, discretion, and insight against self-delusion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob Petersen

    Cassian's conferences are a series of interviews with various spiritual masters among the desert monastics, covering a wide array of topics.

  18. 4 out of 5

    8314

    Heroic! Truly heroic! What an epic battle I am witnessing!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I liked this one. The typical anti-material bent of any Ancient Near Eastern spirituality notwithstanding, Cassian's work has a lot to offer even after 1500 years.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christopher J.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  22. 4 out of 5

    Luke Smith

  23. 5 out of 5

    He Li

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

  25. 4 out of 5

    Massimo

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Wassen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane Werley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark Meyers

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