Reviews - What do customers think about John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality)?
good edition of an Orthodox classic Aug 9, 2007
This is a very readable translation of the Ladder. I found both of the introductions scholarly but easy to understand. I think they do about as good a job as possible of setting the Ladder in a context that modern Christians can accept. I noted that one person did not like Kallistos Ware's introduction, but I thought it was quite good.
The translation by Holy Transfiguration Monastery is more formal, but it is a beautiful hardback -- one of the nicest I've seen at that price.
An incredible guide in the spiritual life Apr 18, 2006
When I first read Saint John Climacus' work, I read this edition and was somewhat disappointed with it, though I did not know why. An orthodox monastic suggested I get the Holy Transfiguration Monastery edition. The latter translation is translated in the older style and thus seems more authentic. As I recall the version here seemed to have too much of the translator's own interpretaions in it. That was offputting to me. This book gives guidance as to how to strip oneself of the passions of the old man and put on the new man. I reread this work every Lent and am always amazed at the insights it gives. When I don't understand a passage I just move on and know that the insight will come at a later reading. The book gives incredible insight into the passions. If one is working on a specific passion like anger or vainglory, the book can be a remarkable help. This book is read every evening in one monastery I know of, and monastics reread it every Lent. After writing this review I realized that the five star rating I gave it is for the Holy Transfiguration Monastery edition. I would have to give the Paulist Press version a lower rating for the above-mentiioned reasons. Maybe three stars?
Caution Apr 16, 2006
In my opinion this text is one that should be read from an Orthodox perspective. There are many items within that if you are not Orthodox could be taken out of perspective (5th step). The content of the text is excellent and is so widely acclaimed in the Orthodox world that it is commonly read in many Orthodox monasteries in addition to laity during lent. So be caution if you choose to delve into this book, and you may not want to lean on your own understanding of the content.
Scholarly paperback with a lamentably ugly cover. Jun 17, 2005
I now have a small collection of books from the Paulist Press Classics of Western Spirituality series. All are well-edited and well-translated, and all come as standard glued paperbacks with that lamentably ugly Paulist cover 'art' (which here lost them one star).
The Paulist edition of 'John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent' is certainly scholarly and reads well enough, but I became intrigued by the comparisons other reviewers were making between it and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery translation. And so I decided to obtain a copy of the HTM edition (ISBN 0943405033) since it is once more in print at a remarkably modest price and can be ordered through their web site.
As others have pointed out, the two translations, though equally scholarly, are in very different styles. As physical products the books are very different too, and I'm overwhelmed at the superb quality of the HTM edition -- hard bound in full gilt-blocked cloth and with a durable Smyth-sewn binding that opens flat, well printed in two colors on Sebago Antique paper, illustrated throughout with icons, and with head and tail pieces and many lovely ornaments. The Editors' Foreword informs us that they "have not wished to spare labours or expense in producing an edition that is worthy of this great classic."
The keen student will no doubt want to have both the Paulist and the HTM translations, as each serves to provide what the other lacks and both help clarify their occasional respective obscurities. Bibliophiles and the Orthodox, however, will undoubtedly be more than happy to settle for the superb Holy Transfiguration Monastery edition as an elegant and tasteful vehicle for an important spiritual classic and a real book that will last.
Buy and study the book . Which version is not that important Mar 11, 2004
I have read both versions of John Climacus' book and have compared the two books line by line on some subjects. I vote for the Paulist edition.
For example on gluttony the Paulist Press has it "a stuffed belly produces fornication, while a mortified stomach leads to purity". Meanwhile the Transfiguration version is "Satiety in food is the father of fornication; but affliction of the stomach is the agent of purity". For me the Paulist reads like the NIV version of the Bible while the Transfiguration version reads like King James. Earth shaking? Not according to the Transfiguration introduction itself. It states very clearly that it too relies on Mignes' Patrologica Graeca (like the Pauline). Moreover it goes on to say "Since no critical text of The Ladder exists to date, the various editions that have been published present us with variant readings. Though significant, none of these descrepancies are of a dogmatic nature." (p.xxx)
The Paulist Press version, the one shown here is easier to read (NIV vs King James again).It contains a scholarly introduction by Kallistos Ware the premier Eastern Orthodox Writer (which you can skip if you are still worried about being polluted by the Latins which he clearly is not). Most importantly I think the Paulist version speaks to you more in what I imagine to be John's true voice. He had a sense of humor and was NOT a pedant.
Having cast my own pedantic vote for the edition shown on the this site site, let me make my main point. Comparatively I too find this book to be superior to any other Christian text I have ever read on the pursuit of perfection. Imitation of Christ. Unseen Warfare, Philokalia etc etc. John got it right at Sinai sometime in the 600s. I regularly seek his friendship and guidance both in his words and in spritual/mental communion with him. A kinder, holier, more knowledgeable guide you could not ask for.