November 24, 2021

A Conversation With Saint Paisios on the Existence of the Invisible Naked Ascetics of Mount Athos

By Hieromonk Athanasios of Simonopetra,
Hymnographer of the Great Church of Christ

"Elder [Paisios]," I said to him, "I want you to give us a blessing to leave, because it is getting dark and we do not have a flashlight, we will be killed on the road."

"Sit over there, so we can talk. Where will I find company? I've been desperate to see a man!"

Of course, he did not need company, but his purpose was to help us spiritually, and I said to him:

"Okay, we'll sit down. But I want you to tell us something."


"I went to Saint Anna the day before yesterday, there in Little Saint Anna, and I heard various stories being said about the naked ascetics."

"Well," he said, "what do you want me to tell you?"

"Elder, do they exist or do they not exist?"

Well, he grabbed me by the left hand like that, and as he put his hand on my back, he stared at me from top to bottom and said to me:

"Let us suppose, blessed soul, what do you say? Do they exist or do they not exist?"

I tell him:

"Elder, since they existed in the past, since the Holy Spirit allowed it to be, why not today?"

He thought for a while and told me:

"When they ask you, say that they exist."

"How many, Elder? Because at Saint Anna I heard that it is twelve, at Little Saint Anna I was told that it is nine."

"Oh," he tells me, "neither twelve nor nine."

"How many are they?"


"And where do they live?"

"They go about around Mount Athos."

"And how do they replace the number?"

"They know. When someone dies, to make up for the number steadily, they know where the right person is who can handle this asceticism and they call him and fill in the number."

"And can anyone see them?"

"Oh, no. They have the grace to become invisible. They may be in front of you and you may not see them."

Concerning this, I have four testimonies of serious people, that the same thing happened to them as with Father Paisios, who while they were next to them they were waiting for them, and suddenly they see them in front of them. And I said to him:

"How many are there, Elder?"

"There are seven."

"I want you to tell me something else."


"What does (God) feed them? What do they eat?"

He tells me:

"Is it difficult for God, let's say, to feed them, since they are naked in the snow? Food is the easiest thing. You should leave now."

"Can I ask you something else?"

"Go on, go on," he tells me. "Did you understand? Leave."

"Elder, please tell me if you know them."

"Oh, blessed one. What curiosity is this?"

"Look, I may die first, you may die first - if you die. If I die, there will be no one to say that Father Paisios knows them. If you die, you will take the secret with you."

Well, he laughed. And he said:

"Look, I will tell you. I only know four of them."

"How do you know them?"

"I have an appointment every five years. Yes, one of these days someone will come here, Papa-Seraphim, to chat. But where are you? (He turned like he was taken aback, a bit like in a way of disgust, we would say). Where are you, my blessed one? Do not be so impressed by the naked ascetics."

"Why, Elder?"

"Because there is a greater state of holiness on Mount Athos."


"Yes sure."

"Which is the greatest?"

"Do you want me to tell you now? Your screw will turn loose and instead of going to Simonopetra, you will end up going to Lembeti, to the psychiatric clinic in Thessaloniki."

As I went to leave, he told me:

"Look. I will call for you one day, before I die, to tell you."

Well, I went to see him a month before he died, but the day I went he was given oxygen and he couldn't. I was left with nothing. Now, did he tell anyone else? Did not God want them to be revealed? Apparently, in my mind the screw was probably still unscrewed and he did not tell me.

Source: From the book Γέροντας Παΐσιος Αγιορείτης, 1924-1994, Μαρτυρία του Υμνογράφου της Μεγάλης του Χριστού Εκκλησίας Ιερομονάχου Αθανασίου Σιμωνοπετρίτου. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.