The Philokalia (from the Greek – “love of the beautiful”) is a collection of texts written between the fourth and fifteenth centuries mostly by monastic writers of the Christian hesychast tradition. It was compiled by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, two monks of the Greek Orthodox Church, and first published in 1782. The book is a principal spiritual text for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In the last century its popularity has spread to include Western Christians, due to the growing interest in contemplative prayer. In it we find the Christianity of the Desert Fathers, and its growing popularity beyond the Orthodox Church suggests that this form of Christianity and its practices has more appeal to a modern mind than a theism that derives from the Old Testament. Here is Evagrios clarifying some of the rules for progressing beyond the exoteric literalism of dogmatic theism.
Evagrios the Solitary – On Prayer
4. When Moses tried to draw near the burning bush he was forbidden to approach until he had loosed his sandals from his feet. If, then, you wish to behold and commune with Him who is beyond sense-perception and beyond concept, you must free yourself from every impassioned thought.
11. Try to make your intellect deaf and dumb during prayer; you will then be able to pray.
44. If your intellect is still distracted during prayer, you do not know what it is like to pray as a monk; but your prayer is still wordly, embellishing the outer tabernacle.
56. One who has attained dispassion has not necessarily achieved pure prayer. For he may still be occupied with thoughts which, though dispassionate, distract him and keep him far from God.
57. When the intellect no longer dallies with dispassionate thoughts about various things, it has not necessarily reached the realm of prayer; for it may still be contemplating the inner essences of these things. And though such contemplation is dispassionate, yet since it is of created things, it impresses their forms upon the intellect and keeps it away from God.
73. When the intellect attains prayer that is pure and free from passion, the demons attack no longer with sinister thoughts but with thoughts of what is good. For they suggest to it an illusion of God’s glory in a form pleasing to the senses, so as to make it think it has realised the final aim of prayer. A man who possesses spiritual knowledge has said that this illusion results from the passion of self-esteem and from the demon’s touch of certain areas of the brain.
74. I think that the demon, by touching this area, changes the light surrounding the intellect as he likes. In this way he uses the passion of self-esteem to stir up in the intellect a thought which fatuously attributes form and location to divine principial knowledge. Not being disturbed by impure and carnal passions, but supposing itself to be in a state of purity, the intellect imagines that there is no longer any adverse energy within it. It then mistakes for a divine manifestation the appearance produced in it by the demon, who cunningly manipulates the brain and converts the light surrounding the intellect into a form, as we have described.
67. When you are praying. Do not shape within yourself any image of the Deity, and do not let your intellect be stamped with the impress of any form; but approach the Immaterial in an immaterial manner, and then you will understand.
68. Be on your guard against the tricks of the demons. While you are praying purely and calmly, sometimes they suddenly bring before you some strange and alien form, making you imagine in your conceit that the Deity is there. They are trying to persuade you that the object suddenly disclosed to you is the Deity, whereas the Deity does not possess quantity and form.
114. Never try to see a form or shape during prayer.
115. Do not long to have a sensory image of angels or powers or Christ, for this would be madness: it would be to take a wolf as your shepherd and to worship your enemies, the demons.
116. Self-esteem is the start of illusions in the intellect. Under its impulse, the intellect attempts to enclose the Deity in shapes and forms.
117. I shall say again what I have said elsewhere: blessed is the intellect that is completely free from forms during prayer.
118. Blessed is the intellect that, undistracted in its prayer, acquires an ever greater longing for God.
119. Blessed is the intellect that during prayer is free from materiality and stripped of all possessions.
120. Blessed is the intellect that has acquired complete freedom from sensations during prayer.
121. Blessed is the monk who regards every man as God after God.
122. Blessed is the monk who looks with great joy on everyone’s salvation and progress as if they were his own.
125. A monk is one who regards himself as linked with every man, through always seeing himself in each.
This topic continues here with some explication of Evagrios’ approach from Plotinus and Hongzhi – http://theworldknot.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/duality-unity-and-realisation/