‘But Brother Ahl’s speech has almost the opposite effect. He speaks badly and indistinctly, evidently because of his age. No one knows how old he is. Brother Sez is also very old—it is said three hundred years old—but he is still a hale old man, whereas in Brother Ahl the weakness of old age is clearly evident.
‘The stronger the impression made at the moment by the words of Brother Sez, the more this impression evaporates, until there ultimately remains in the hearer nothing at all.
‘But in the case of Brother Ahl, although at first what he says makes almost no impression, later, the gist of it takes on a definite form, more and more each day, and is instilled as a whole into the heart and remains there for ever.
‘When we became aware of this and began trying to discover why it was so, we came to the unanimous conclusion that the sermons of Brother Sez proceeded only from his mind, and therefore acted on our minds, whereas those of Brother Ahl proceeded from his being and acted on our being.
‘Yes, Professor, knowledge and understanding are quite different. Only understanding can lead to being, whereas knowledge is but a passing presence in it. New knowledge displaces the old and the result is, as it were, a pouring from the empty into the void.
‘One must strive to understand; this alone can lead to our Lord God.
‘And in order to be able to understand the phenomena of nature, according and not according to law, proceeding around us, one must first of all consciously perceive and assimilate a mass of information concerning objective truth and the real events which took place on earth in the past; and secondly, one must bear in oneself all the results of all kinds of voluntary and involuntary experiencings.’
We had many other similar never-to-be-forgotten talks with Father Giovanni.
Many extraordinary questions which never enter the heads of contemporary people were then aroused in us and elucidated by this rare man, Father Giovanni, the like of whom is scarcely ever met with in contemporary life. One of his explanations, which followed a question put to him by Professor Skridlov two days before we left the monastery, is of enormous interest for everyone, owing to the depth of the thoughts it contained and its possible significance for contemporary people who have already reached responsible age.