Praxis' teachings are grounded in the traditions of the earliest Church Fathers, so that they represent in modern form the ˜heart' of Christian spirituality. As Abba Dorotheus of Gaza has indicated, great esoteric teachings are central to human experience and human needs. As such, they may differ in specific practices, but converge as they grow deeper. Thus, Praxis teachings have many similarities to the inner teachings of non-Western traditions such as Sufism and Hinduism, as well as to those of the Fourth Way as defined by G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Boris Mouravieff. Like these spiritual traditions, Praxis teachings begin with the assumption that all human beings have a forgotten potential, far greater than many today attempt to realize. This lost potential is based on the fact that humans come into the world with a higher, spiritual, or conscious nature, as well as a lower animal, or mechanical, nature. Spiritual practice entails mastery over one's mechanical self in order to fully realize one's spiritual nature, leading to a state of mental stillness and, in Christian terms, acquisition of the ˜Holy Spirit.'
The higher nature, in Christian terms, consists of the nous and kardia, spiritual attributes, which, as discussed below, may relate to what the Fourth Way calls the ˜higher centers.'
The lower nature, again referring to early Christian usage, is the ˜psyche,' meaning ˜life' or ˜soul,' as well as the continued activity of intellectual, emotional, and sensory
-motor functions, sometimes called the ˜Lower Centers.' These functions, operating as they usually do without guidance from the higher centers, make up the personality from which we derive our inclination often to choose self-gratification over service to a higher order.
AIMS OF INNER WORK
As with the Fourth Way, the inner teachings of Hinduism and Islam, and the esoteric teaching of the Desert Fathers of early Christianity, the aim of inner work as taught by Praxis is to develop and harmonize all aspects of the psyche, so that working together they can serve the higher nature. That process requires long effort and self-study grounded in understanding of inner, or ˜esoteric,' knowledge.
This knowledge, once confined to monastic settings, is now becoming more fully available to the West, and is included in classical Christian sources such as the Philokalia, as well as in many of the publications available through Praxis Institute Press. These include Robin Amis', A Different Christianity and Views from Mount Athos, now ready for publication; Boris Mouravieff's Gnosis, Volumes I, II, and III; and Saint Gregory Palamas' Triads. (Links to these books are on the website; other resources are also listed.)
Praxis teaching methods are based on early Christian esoteric practices, adapted so that they can be done outside the monastery in today's world. First among these teachings follows the Delphic Oracle's instruction to ˜know thyself.' This applies to knowing our personality or mechanical nature, and our spiritual or more conscious nature. We come to distinguish the higher part of our nature
s through self-awareness and discrimination (in the Greek of its origin, nepsis and diakrisis). This Inner Knowledge is in part acquired through daily living, complemented by regular periods of meditation and prayer, to break habitual actions as well as to connect to our higher nature that is only accessible in moments of presence, stillness, and inner peace (in Greek, hesychia).
In the Fourth Way teaching of the 20th century, this is called self-remembering. Praxis, however, differs from these teachings in emphasizing that self-remembering, self-mastery and the Buddhist mindfulness in the full senses of these terms, cannot be achieved by human effort alone. They require help from higher, spiritual sources; in Judeo-Christian terms, from God. Toward that end, a central practice in Praxis is the ˜Jesus Prayer' or ˜Prayer of the Heart,' repeated simply over and over again: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. In a variation, practice of this prayer ends with the addition of ˜a sinner.' This term, in early, and esoteric Christian traditions, does not mean what it does today, but rather retains its original meaning from the Greek, hamartia, ˜having missed the mark.'