The Way of a Pilgrim

One of the greatest (and, happily, most accessible) of Russian classic texts on the spiritual life is “The Way of a Pilgrim”, now available in numerous paperback translations.
“The Way of a Pilgrim” is the English title of a 19th century Russian work, recounting the narrator’s journey as a mendicant pilgrim across Russia while practicing the Jesus Prayer. It is unknown if the book is literally an account of a single pilgrim, or if it uses a fictional pilgrim’s journey as a vehicle to teach the practice of ceaseless inner prayer and communion with God. The Russian original, or a copy of it, was present at a Mount Athos monastery in Greece in the 19th century, and was first published in Kazan in 1884, under the Russian title that translates as “Candid Narratives of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father.”

“Readers of “The Way of a Pilgrim” quickly discover two levels of narration in this simple and unassuming nineteenth-century religious classic. The first level presents a heartfelt apologia for silent prayer in the Orthodox Christian tradition, namely, the “ceaseless” prayer or the so-called Jesus prayer. Cited as the authority for the Jesus prayer is the “Philokalia”, a literary collection of writings of the Greek-speaking Church Fathers supporting the tradition of hesychasm. Yet “The Way of a Pilgrim” does not pursue theological argument. It is imminently practical in its advice to simply start praying.

But if this level of presentation were the only one, “The Way of a Pilgrim” would not be of interest as more than a classic of spirituality. The second level of narration, which underlies the entire work and arguably is the main reason for the work’s simplicity and attraction, is the literal but subtle presentation of the hermit life. The narrator is a solitary and a wanderer calling himself a pilgrim. The wandering hermit’s example is presented as the model existence for those who would truly lead a spiritual life….

The two levels of “The Way of a Pilgrim”, the prayer method and the life of the wandering hermit, give readers of either disposition entry to fresh approaches to prayer and to eremitism. The authenticity of the homeless wanderer is well sustained by his simplicity of belief and practice.”

pilgrim etc
The full text in English:

See also “The Way of a Pilgrim and the Jesus Prayer in our Age” in “The Jesus Prayer” by A Monk of the Eastern Church (Lev Gillet) and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)(1987) – part available at

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