Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

The Idol Under the Bed


Tongues in the CEC“And the best of intentions may have damaging results if misapplied to the wrong ends, as exchanging the spiritual state for a state of psychotic hysteria is essentially an act of dissipation merely disguised by a religious false front.” – ALEXANDER Turner, first vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate

Fr. Thomas Hopko recently answered a question on the Illumined Heart podcast about “the Charismatic sign gifts” like “speaking in tongues”, by which is meant glossalia, “words of prophesy” (divination), etc. Fr. Thomas, in the course of this conversation, referred to a conversation in mid-May with a recent convert from the Charismatic Episcopal Church, who is now the priest and pastor of a new Antiochian Western Rite mission. In the conversation, he asked the new priest “point blank” if he “prays in tongues”. The priest indicated that “I have and I still do, privately for my own edification, but I never do it publicly anymore.”

Folks, the retention of these practices, even in private devotions, is a problem with mass conversions and ordination of new converts not steeped in the Orthodox mind – indeed still steeped in their own practices (even if they’ve simply gone underground). This creates a parachurch culture of the “enlightened” or “spirit filled” who share with each other “words of prophesy” (presuming to give a message from God) and pray in tongues (presumably the speech of God), and even go so far as to attribute these occult practices (for that’s what they are) to Orthodox Fathers, who clearly are not referring to the same things at all.

All of the fathers teach that the kind of clairvoyance attributed to some startzi comes from a long life of Holy Orthodoxy, lived in continual holiness, through the way of the desert and the monastics. There are two kinds of illumination:

1. The kind that comes through the arduous, difficult path of theosis and is given as a gift (charismata) to the most advanced among the saints. This may be called Illumination.

2. The prelest that tempts the immature believer, deluding him, and enticing him into the passions and the arms of the Enemy. Indeed the enemy needn’t steer anyone to brothels who only had decided he is worthy of visions, who surrenders his senses to involuntary utterance and abuse of the tongue, and who presumes to speak prophesy of his own accord. This properly is called Illuminism, which is but the deadly counterfeit.

Retention of these heterodox practices is indication of a sickness at the heart of the catechetical and conversion process. It’s indicative of the belief that one’s own idol has a place under the bed in Israel. Indeed, this is like a wife married from among the Canaanites, who brought with her the family idols and hid them under the tent, and the Lord judged Israel because they were concealed there.

It is not a matter of ‘giving up’ practices long held, but a question of whether or not conversion, and indeed ordination, involves an understanding and attitude that does not allow them to continue – most especially not in private where, concealed, they are not within the scope of the Church’s ability to say Amen, interpret, understand, or reject. As such, it cannot be tested, and both the convert and his Faith are in danger.

The answer that it is merely switched to private devotion misses the point that: when a leader or a group of people indicate to others that they practice such a thing, it lends it legitimacy. When this is not merely the saying of the Western offices, but is a practice actually forbidden in scripture but interpreted by heterodox according to their own private interpretation as being prescribed, this is more serious, and indicates the need to turn from the practices rightly cast away to those of the Orthodox, as converts have from time immemorial. The Witches burned their books. The Jews laid down their persecution. The Charismatics, likewise, to be within the mind of the Church, must not attempt to augment it with their practices which are quite clearly antagonistic to Orthodox piety and a threat to their own salvation. Rather, they must become Orthodox – not Orthodox “charismatics”.

“He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists… Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever…”

“But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake…”

“So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.”

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…”

“Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.” – Epistle Reading March 2nd

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March 1, 2008 - Posted by | -- Charismaticism, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. As a follow up, my first and last visit to an Antiochian parish had a “choir member” clearly playing back the tapes of her Charismatic days the moment she stepped into church late for Orthos. Apparently, these are still her Charismatic days. During Communion, as the featured soloist so to speak, she infused this same practice, not with “tongues” but with a not so subtle manner of melody and expression. So much for a “conversion” to Orthodoxy.

    Having attended Charismatic Catholic services which I now repent, but never a card carrying Charismatic, I have seen many of those dangers. Perhaps the worst fruit of this delusion jamboree is the sense many Charismatics have of feeling sorry for those who don’t really get it, those not on the inside. This seals the deal. Related to this is the estrangement of “unconverted” family members who then reinforce the delusion by considering a relative “crazy.” This bogus sense of suffering for Christ is frequently part of the package. In the midst of these “fervent” gatherings, sensuality is often the underlining experience and base for grave sins.

    Once again, this blog calls into question quite validly the sad reality of what are called “conversions” to Orthodoxy. As someone newly Chrismated, this and other postings has helped me examine my own conversion, has challenged me and helped me spiritually. Please pray for me and all converts to Orthodoxy, through the prayers of the Theotokos…

    Comment by publican123 | March 13, 2008 | Reply

  2. Induced charismatic phenomena are demonic. In fact, Elder Theodore (disciple of the Elder Symeon of Pskov Caves monastery) would even say that Orthodox Christians who involve themselves in such pentecostalist or charismatic activities deprive themselves of the grace of the Holy Spirit and cannot be saved. While this latter cannot perhaps be taken too literally, as some sort of solemn definition, it is nonetheless an indication of just how dangerous this form of apostasy is. I am sorry to hear that Antiochian Archdiocese pastors are falling into this danger intentionally. May the Mother of God rescue them.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. Revival vs. the Church

    In an age of almost universal darkness and deception, when for most “Christians” Christ has become precisely what Orthodox teaching means by antichrist, the Orthodox Church of Christ alone possesses and communicates the grace of God. This is a priceless treasure the very existence of which is not so much as suspected even by the “Christian” world. The “Christian” world, indeed, joins hands with the forces of darkness in order to seduce the faithful of the Church of Christ, blindly trusting that the “name of Jesus” will save them even in their apostasy and blasphemy, mindless of the fearful warning of the Lord: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23).

    St. Paul continues his warning about the coming of antichrist with this command: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so say I now again: If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9).

    The Orthodox answer to every new “revival,” and even to the final terrible “revival” of antichrist, is this Gospel of Christ, which the Orthodox Church alone has preserved unchanged in an unbroken line from Christ and His Apostles, and the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Orthodox Church alone communicates, and only to her faithful children, who have received in Chrismation, and kept, the true seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Roman Catholics and Protestants today have not fully tasted of God’s grace, and so it is not surprising that they should be unable to discern its demonic counterfeit. But alas! The success of counterfeit spirituality even among Orthodox Christians today reveals how much they also have lost the savor of Christianity and so can no longer distinguish between true Christianity and pseudo-Christianity. For too long have Orthodox Christians taken for granted the precious treasure of their Faith and neglected to put into use the pure gold of its teachings. How many Orthodox Christians even know of the existence of the basic texts of Orthodox spiritual life, which teach precisely how to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit spirituality, texts which give the life and teaching of holy men and women who attained an abundant measure of God¹s grace in this life? How many have made their own the teaching of the Lausiac History, the Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius, the Lives of the God-bearing Fathers of the desert, Unseen Warfare, St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ?

    In the Life of the great Father of the Egyptian desert, St. Paisius the Great (June 19), we may see a shocking example of how easy it is to lose the grace of God. Once a disciple of his was walking to a city in Egypt to sell his handiwork. On the way he met a Jew who, seeing his simplicity, began to deceive him, saying: “O beloved, why do you believe in a simple, crucified Man, when He was not at all the awaited Messiah? Another is to come, but not He.” The disciple, being weak in mind and simple in heart, began to listen to these words and allowed himself to say: “Perhaps what you say is correct.” When he returned to the desert, St. Paisius turned away from him and would not speak a single word to him. Finally, after the disciple¹s long entreaty, the Saint said to him: “Who are you? I do not know you. This disciple of mine was a Christian and had upon him the grace of Baptism, but you are not such a one; if you are actually my disciple, then the grace of Baptism has left you and the image of a Christian has been removed.” The disciple with tears related his conversation with the Jew, to which the Saint replied: “O wretched one! What could be worse and more foul than such words, by which you renounced Christ and His divine Baptism? Now go and weep over yourself as you wish, for you have no place with me; your name is written with those who have renounced Christ, and together with them you will receive judgment and torments.” On hearing this judgment the disciple was filled with repentance, and at his entreaty the Saint shut himself up and prayed to the Lord to forgive his disciple this sin. The Lord heard the Saint¹s prayer and granted him to behold a sign of His forgiveness of the disciple. The Saint then warned the disciple: “O child, give glory and thanksgiving to Christ God together with me, for the unclean, blasphemous spirit has departed from you, and in his place the Holy Spirit has descended upon you, restoring to you the grace of Baptism. And so, guard yourself now, lest out of sloth and carelessness the nets of the enemy should fall upon you again and, having sinned, you should inherit the fire of gehenna.”

    Significantly, it is among “ecumenical Christians” that the “charismatic” and “meditation” movements have taken root. The characteristic belief of the heresy of ecumenism is this: that the Orthodox Church is not the one true Church of Christ; that the grace of God is present also in other “Christian” denominations, and even in non-Christian religions; that the narrow path of salvation according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church is only “one path among many” to salvation; and that the details of one’s belief in Christ are of little importance, as is one’s membership in any particular church. Not all the Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement believe this entirely (although Protestants and Roman Catholics most certainly do); but by their very participation in this movement, including invariably common prayer with those who believe wrongly about Christ and His Church, they tell the heretics who behold them: “Perhaps what you say is correct,” even as the wretched disciple of St. Paisius did. No more than this is required for an Orthodox Christian to lose the grace of God; and what labor it will cost for him to gain it back!

    How much, then, must Orthodox Christians walk in the fear of God, trembling lest they lose His grace, which by no means is given to everyone, but only to those who hold the true Faith, lead a life of Christian struggle, and treasure the grace of God which leads them heavenward. And how much more cautiously must Orthodox Christians walk today above all, when they are surrounded by a counterfeit Christianity that gives its own experiences of “grace” and the “Holy Spirit” and can abundantly quote the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers to “prove” it! Surely the last times are near, when there will come spiritual deception so persuasive as to “deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect” (Matt. 24:24).

    Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is human or who think to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit in some other way than that which the one Church of Christ has handed down to us. True Orthodoxy by its very nature must seem totally out of place in these demonic times, a dwindling minority of the despised and “foolish,” in the midst of a religious “revival” inspired by another kind of spirit. But let us take comfort from the certain words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

    Let all true Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours. He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18), and that for the sake of the elect He will cut short the days of the last great tribulation (Matt. 24:22). And in truth, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Even in the midst of the cruelest temptations, we are commanded to be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Let us live, even as true Christians of all times have lived, in expectation of the end of all things and the coming of our dear Saviour; for “He that giveth testimony of these things saith: Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Apoc. 22:20).

    – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  4. Pseudo-Piety

    IN GENERAL, followers of the “charismatic revival” have the feeling of being (as they constantly repeat) “Spirit-filled.” “I felt free, clean and a new person and completely filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ranaghan, p. 98). “Because of what was begun in the baptism of the Spirit, I have now begun to see more a vision of what life in the Spirit is like. It is truly a life of miraclesŠof being filled over and over with the life-giving love of the Spirit of God” (Ranaghan, p. 65). They invariably characterize their “spiritual” state in similar words; a Catholic priest writes, “Whatever other particular effects may have occurred, peace and joy seem to have been received by all, almost without exception, of those who have been touched by the Spirit” (Ranaghan, p. 185). One inter-denominational “charismatic” group states that the aim of its members is “to show and spread Jesus Christ’s Love, Joy and Peace wherever they are” (Inter-Church Renewal). In this “spiritual” state (in which, characteristically, both repentance and salvation are seldom mentioned), some rise to great heights. In one Catholic, the gift of the “Spirit” “has risen within me to long periods (several hours) of near ecstasy in which I¹d swear I was experiencing a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Ranaghan, p. 103).

    Spectacular stories are told of deliverance from drug addiction and the like. The Greek priest Fr. Eusebius Stephanou summarizes this “spirituality” by quoting a Roman Catholic priest who states that the “charismatic” movement involves “a new sense of the presence of God, a new awareness of Christ, a greater desire to pray, an ability to praise God, a new desire to read the Scriptures, the Scriptures coming alive as the Word of God, a new eagerness to have others know about Christ, a new compassion for others and a sensitiveness to their needs, a new sense of peace and joy…” And Fr. Eusebius presents the ultimate argument of the whole movement: “The tree is known by its fruits… Do these fruits demonstrate the presence of the devil or of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ? No Orthodox in his right mind who has seen the fruits of the Spirit with his own eyes can give a mistaken answer to this question” (Logos, Jan., 1972, p.13).

    There is no reason to doubt any of this testimony. True, there is also much testimony – we have given a few examples – that contradicts this and states definitely that the “spirit” of the “charismatic revival” is something dark and ominous; but still it cannot be doubted that many followers of the “charismatic revival” actually feel that it is something “Christian” and “spiritual.” As long as these people remain outside the Orthodox Church, we might well leave their opinions without comment. But when an Orthodox priest tells us that sectarian phenomena are produced by the Holy Spirit, and he even exhorts us: “Don’t be left out. Open your heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be part of the growing charismatic renewal” (loc. cit.) – then we have the right and the duty to examine their opinions quite closely, judging them not by the standard of the vague humanist “Christianity” which prevails in the West and is prepared to call anything “Christian” that merely “feels” so, but by the quite different standard of Orthodox Christianity. And by this standard there is not one item in the above list of “spiritual fruits” but that can be, and has been in the sectarian and heretical movements of the past, produced by the devil appearing as an “angel of light,” precisely with the aim of leading people away from the Church of Christ into some other kind of “Christianity. ” If the “spirit” of the “charismatic revival” is not the Holy Spirit, then these “spiritual fruits” likewise are not from God.

    According to Bishop Ignatius, the deception known as “fancy” is satisfied with the invention of counterfeit feelings and states of grace, from which there is born a false, wrong conception of the whole spiritual undertaking… It constantly invents pseudo-spiritual states, an intimate companionship with Jesus, an inward conversation with him, mystical revelations, voices, enjoyments… From this activity the blood receives a sinful, deceiving movement, which presents itself as a grace-given delight… It clothes itself in the mask of humility, piety, wisdom.” Unlike the more spectacular form of spiritual deception, fancy, while “bringing the mind into the most frightful error, does not however lead it to delirium,” so that the state may continue for many years or a whole lifetime and not be easily detected. One who falls into this warm, comfortable, fevered state of deception virtually commits spiritual suicide, blinding himself to his own true spiritual state. Writes Bishop Ignatius: “Fancying of himself… that he is filled with grace, he will never receive grace… He who ascribes to himself gifts of grace fences off from himself by this ‘fancy’ the entrance into himself of Divine grace, and opens wide the door to the infection of sin and to demons.” “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Apoc. 3:17)

    Those infected with the “charismatic” deception are not only themselves “spirit-filled”; they also see around them the beginning of a “new age” of the “out-pouring of the Holy Spirit,” believing, as does Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, that “the world is on the threshold of a great spiritual awakening” (Logos, Feb., 1972, p. 18); and the words of the Prophet Joel are constantly on their lips: “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). The Orthodox Christian knows that this prophecy refers in general to the last age that began with the coming of our Lord, and more specifically to Pentecost (Acts 2), and to every Orthodox Saint who truly possesses in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit – such as St. John of Kronstadt and St. Nectarios of Pentapolis, who have worked thousands of miracles even in this corrupt 20th century. But to today’s “charismatics,” miraculous gifts are for everyone; almost everyone who wants to can and does speak in tongues, and there are manuals telling you how to do it.

    But what do the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church teach us? According to Bishop Ignatius, the gifts of the Holy Spirit “exist only in Orthodox Christians who have attained Christian perfection, purified and prepared beforehand by repentance.” They “are given to Saints of God solely at God’s good will and God’s action, and not by the will of men and not by one’s own power. They are given unexpectedly, extremely rarely, in cases of extreme need, by God’s wondrous providence, and not just at random’ (St. Isaac the Syrian). “It should be noted that at the present time spiritual gifts are granted in great moderation, corresponding to the enfeeblement that has enveloped Christianity in general. These gifts serve entirely the needs of salvation. On the contrary, ‘fancy’ lavishes its gifts in boundless abundance and with the greatest speed.”

    In a word, the “spirit” that suddenly lavishes its “gifts” upon this adulterous generation which, corrupted and deceived by centuries of false belief and pseudo-piety, seeks only a “sign” – is not the Holy Spirit of God. These people have never known the Holy Spirit and never worshipped Him. True spirituality is so far beyond them that, to the sober observer, they only mock it by their psychic and emotional – and sometimes demonic – phenomena and blasphemous utterances. Of true spiritual feelings, writes Bishop Ignatius, “the fleshly man cannot form any conception: because a conception of feeling is always based on those feelings already known to the heart, while spiritual feelings are entirely foreign to the heart that knows only fleshly and emotional feelings. Such a heart does not so much as know of the existence of spiritual feelings.”

    – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  5. Attitudes toward Spirituality

    The whole history of Orthodox Christianity does not know of any such “ecstatic” experiences produced by the Holy Spirit. It is only foolishness when some “charismatic” apologists presume to compare these childish and hysterical experiences, which are open to absolutely everyone, with the Divine revelations accorded to the greatest Saints, such as to St. Paul on the road to Damascus or to St. John the Evangelist on Patmos. Those Saints fell down before the true God (without contortions, and certainly without laughter), whereas these pseudo-Christians are merely reacting to the presence of an invading spirit, and are worshipping only themselves. The Elder Macarius of Optina wrote to a person in a similar state: “Thinking to find the love of God in consoling feelings, you are seeking not God but yourself, that is, your own consolation, while you avoid the path of sorrows, considering yourself supposedly lost without spiritual consolations” [15].

    If these “charismatic” experiences are religious experiences at all, then they are pagan religious experiences; and in fact they seem to correspond exactly to the mediumistic initiation experience of spirit-possession, which is caused by “an inner force welling up inside attempting to take control” (Koch, Occult Bondage, p. 44).

    Bishop Ignatius gives several examples of such physical accompaniments of spiritual deception: one, a monk who trembled and made strange sounds, and identified these signs as the “fruits of prayer”; another, a monk whom the bishop met who as a result of his ecstatic method of prayer felt such heat in his body that he needed no warm clothing in winter, and this heat could even be felt by others. As a general principle, Bishop Ignatius writes, the second kind of spiritual deception is accompanied by “a material, passionate warmth of the blood”; “the behavior of the ascetics of Latinism, embraced by deception, has always been ecstatic, by reason of this extraordinary material, passionate warmth” – the state of such Latin “saints” as Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola. This material warmth of the blood, a mark of the spiritually deceived, is to be distinguished from the spiritual warmth felt by those such as St. Seraphim of Sarov who genuinely acquired the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not acquired from ecstatic “charismatic” experiences, but by the long and arduous path of asceticism the “path of sorrows” of which the Elder Macarius spoke, within the Church of Christ.

    – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  6. Attitudes toward Spirituality

    HAVING LITTLE OR NO FOUNDATION in the genuine sources of Christian spiritual experience – the Holy Mysteries of the Church, and the spiritual teaching handed down by the Holy Fathers from Christ and His Apostles-the followers of the “charismatic” movement have no means of distinguishing the grace of God from its counterfeit. All “charismatic” writers show, to a lesser or greater degree, a lack of caution and discrimination toward the experiences they have. Some Catholic Pentecostals, to be sure, “exorcise satan” before asking for “Baptism in the Spirit”; but the efficacy of this act, as will soon be evident from their own testimony, is similar to that of the Jews in the Acts (19:15), to whose “exorcism” the evil spirit replied: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” St. John Cassian, the great 5th-century Orthodox father of the West, who wrote with great discernment on the working of the Holy Spirit in his Conference on “Divine Gifts,” notes that “sometimes the demons [work miracles] in order to lift into pride the man who believes himself to possess the miraculous gift, and so prepare him for a more miraculous fall. They pretend that they are being burnt up and driven out from the bodies where they were dwelling through the holiness of people whom truly they know to be unholy… In the Gospel we read: There shall arise false Christs and false prophets” [12].

    Any reader of the Orthodox Lives of Saints and other spiritual literature knows that all of these spirits‹both “good” and “evil,” the “lower” with the “higher” – are equally demons, and that the discernment between true good spirits (angels) and these evil spirits cannot be made on the basis of one¹s own feelings or impressions. The widespread practice of “exorcism” in “charismatic” circles offers no guarantee whatever that evil spirits are actually being driven out; exorcisms are also very common (and seemingly successful) among primitive shamans,14 who also recognize that there are different kinds of spirits – which are all, however, equally demons, whether they seem to flee when exorcised or come when invoked to give shamanistic powers.

    No one will deny that the “charismatic” movement on the whole is firmly oriented against contemporary occultism and satanism. But the more subtle of the evil spirits appear as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), and a great gift of discernment, together with a deep distrust of all one¹s extraordinary “spiritual” experiences, is required if a person is not to be deceived. In the face of the subtle, invisible enemies who wage unseen warfare against the human race, the naively trusting attitude towards their experiences of most people involved in the “charismatic” movement is an open invitation to spiritual deception. One pastor, for example, counsels meditation on Scriptural passages and then writing down any thought “triggered” by the reading: “This is the Holy Spirit’s personal message to you” (Christenson, p. 139). But any serious student of Christian spirituality knows that, for example, ³at the beginning of the monastic life some of the unclean demons instruct [novices] in the interpretation of the Divine Scriptures…gradually deceiving them that they may lead them into heresy and blasphemy” (The Ladder of St. John, Step 26: 152).

    – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  7. Prelest and The Denial of Asceticism

    THE CONCEPT OF PRELEST, a key one in Orthodox ascetical teaching, is completely absent in the Protestant-Catholic world which produced the “charismatic” movement; and this fact explains why such an obvious deception can gain such a hold over nominally “Christian” circles, and also why a “prophet” like Nicholas Berdyaev who comes from an Orthodox background should regard it as absolutely essential that in the “new age of the Holy Spirit” “There will be no more of the ascetic world-view.” The reason is obvious: the Orthodox ascetic world-view gives the only means by which men, having received the Holy Spirit at their Baptism and Chrismation, may truly continue to acquire the Holy Spirit in their lives; and it teaches how to distinguish and guard oneself against spiritual deception. The “new spirituality” of which Berdyaev dreamed and which the “charismatic revival” actually practices, has an entirely different foundation and is seen to be a fraud in the light of the Orthodox ascetical teaching. Therefore, there is not room for both conceptions in the same spiritual universe: to accept the “new spirituality” of the “charismatic revival” one must reject Orthodox Christianity; and conversely, to remain an Orthodox Christian, one must reject the “charismatic revival,” which is a counterfeit of Orthodoxy.

    To make this quite clear, in what follows we shall give the teaching of the Orthodox Church on spiritual deception chiefly as found in the 19th-century summation of this teaching made by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, himself an Orthodox Father of modern times, in volume one of his collected works.

    There are two basic forms of prelest or spiritual deception. The first and more spectacular form occurs when a person strives for a high spiritual state or spiritual visions without having been purified of passions and relying on his own judgment. To such a one the devil grants great “visions.” There are many such examples in the Lives of Saints, one of the primary textbooks of Orthodox ascetical teaching. Thus St. Nicetas, Bishop of Novgorod (Jan. 31), entered on the solitary life unprepared and against the counsel of his abbot, and soon he heard a voice praying with him. Then “the Lord” spoke to him and sent an “angel” to pray in his place and to instruct him to read books instead of praying, and to teach those who came to him. This he did, always seeing the “angel” near him praying, and the people were astonished at his spiritual wisdom and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” which he seemed to possess, including “prophecies” which were always fulfilled. The deceit was uncovered only when the fathers of the monastery found out about his aversion for the New Testament (although the Old Testament, which he had never read, he could quote by heart), and by their prayers he was brought to repentance, his “miracles” ceased, and later he attained to genuine sanctity. Again, St. Isaac of the Kiev Caves (Feb. 14) saw a great light and “Christ” appeared to him with “angels”; when Isaac, without making the sign of the Cross, bowed down before “Christ,” the demons gained power over him and, after dancing wildly with him, left him all but dead. He also later attained genuine sanctity. There are many similar cases when “Christ” and “angels” appeared to ascetics and granted astonishing powers and “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” which often led the deluded ascetic finally to insanity or suicide.

    But there is another more common, less spectacular form of spiritual deception, which offers to its victims not great visions but just exalted “religious feelings.” This occurs, as Bishop Ignatius has written, “when the heart desires and strives for the enjoyment of holy and divine feelings while it is still completely unfit for them. Everyone who does not have a contrite spirit, who recognizes any kind of merit or worth in himself, who does not hold unwaveringly the teaching of the Orthodox Church but on some tradition or other has thought out his own arbitrary judgment or has followed a non-Orthodox teaching – is in this state of deception.” The Roman Catholic Church has whole spiritual manuals written by people in this state; such is Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. Bishop Ignatius says of it: “There reigns in this book and breathes from its pages the unction of the evil spirit, flattering the reader, intoxicating him… The book conducts the reader directly to communion with God, without previous purification by repentance… From it carnal people enter into rapture from a delight and intoxication attained without difficulty, without self-renunciation, without repentance, without crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), with flattery of their fallen state.” And the result, as I.M. Kontzevitch, the great transmitter of patristic teaching, has written,11 is that “the ascetic, striving to kindle in his heart love for God while neglecting repentance, exerts himself to attain a feeling of delight, of ecstasy, and as a result he attains precisely the opposite: ‘he enters into communion with satan and becomes infected with hatred for the Holy Spirit’ (Bishop Ignatius).”

    And this is the actual state in which the followers of the “charismatic revival,” even without suspecting it, find themselves.

    Just as one “baptized in the Spirit” usually carries the ability to speak in tongues over into his private devotions, and in general is aware that “the Lord” is constantly with him, so too, even outside the atmosphere of the prayer meeting he often has private “revelations,” including audible voices and tangible “presences.” Thus does the “prophet” of the “charismatic revival” describe one of his experiences: “I was awakened from a deep restful sleep by a voice that seemed loud and clear… distinctly saying: ‘God has no grandsons’… Then it seemed as if there was someone in my room and the presence made me feel good. Suddenly it dawned on me. It must be the Holy Spirit who spoke to me” (Du Pleissis, p. 61).

    How can one account for such experiences? Bishop Ignatius writes: “One possessed by this kind of spiritual deception fancies of himself [the second form of prelest is called ‘fancy,’ mnenie in Russian] that he abounds in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fancy is composed of false concepts and false feelings, and in this character which it has it belongs fully to the realm of the father and representative of falsehood, the devil. One who, in praying, strives to unveil in the heart the feeling of the new man, yet does not have any possibility to do this, substitutes for this feelings of his own invention, counterfeits, to which the action of fallen spirits does not tarry to join itself. Acknowledging his incorrect feelings, both his own and those from the demons, to be true and grace-given, he receives conceptions which correspond to the feelings.”

    THERE MAY BE THOSE who will doubt that the “charismatic revival” is a form of mediumism; that is only a secondary question of the means or technique by which the “spirit” of the “charismatic revival” is communicated. But that this “spirit” has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity is abundantly clear. And in fact this “spirit” follows almost to the letter the “prophecies” of Nicholas Berdyaev concerning a “New Christianity.” It completely leaves behind the “monastic ascetic spirit of historical Orthodoxy,” which most effectively exposes its falsity. It is not satisfied with the “conservative Christianity which directs the spiritual forces of man only towards contrition and salvation,” but rather, apparently believing like Berdyaev that such a Christianity is still “incomplete,” adds a second level of “spiritual” phenomena, not one of which is specifically Christian in character (although one is free to interpret them as “Christian”), which are open to people of every denomination with or without repentance, and which are completely unrelated to salvation. It looks to “a new era in Christianity, a new and deep spirituality, which means a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” – in complete contradiction of Orthodox tradition and prophecy.

    – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  8. Mediumism

    What is a “medium”? A medium is a person with a certain psychic sensitivity which enables him to be the vehicle or means for the manifestation of unseen forces or beings (where actual beings are involved, as Starets Ambrose of Optina has clearly stated [5], these are always the fallen spirits whose realm this is, and not the “spirits of the dead” imagined by spiritists). Almost all non-Christian religions make large use of mediumistic gifts, such as clairvoyance, hypnosis, “miraculous” healing, the appearance and disappearance of objects as well as their movement from place to place, etc.

    It should be noted that several similar gifts have also been possessed by Orthodox Saints – but there is an immense difference between the true Christian gift and its mediumistic imitation. The true Christian gift of healing, for example, is given by God directly in answer to fervent prayer, and especially at the prayer of a man who is particularly pleasing to God, a righteous man or saint (James 5:16), and also through contact in faith with objects that have been sanctified by God (holy water, relies of saints, etc.; see Acts 19:12; 2 Kings 13:21). But mediumistic healing, like any other mediumistic gift, is accomplished by means of certain definite techniques and psychic states which can be cultivated and brought into use by practice, and which have no relation whatever either to sanctity or to the action of God. The mediumistic ability may be acquired either by inheritance or by transference through contact with someone who has the gift, or even through the reading of occult books [6]. – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  9. Psychic Games

    Far from being given freely and spontaneously, without man’s interference – as are the true gifts of the Holy Spirit- speaking in tongues can be caused to occur quite predictably by a regular technique of concentrated group “prayer” accompanied by psychologically suggestive Protestant hymns (“He comes! He comes!”), culminating in a “laying on of hands,” and sometimes involving such purely physical efforts as repeating a given phrase over and over again (Koch, p. 24), or just making sounds with the mouth. One person admits that, like many others, after speaking in tongues, “I often did mouth nonsense syllables in an effort to start the flow of prayer-in-tongues” (Sherrill, p. 127); and such efforts, far from being discouraged, are actually advocated by Pentecostals. “Making sounds with the mouth is not ‘speaking-in-tongues,’ but it may signify an honest act of faith, which the Holy Spirit will honor by giving that person the power to speak in another language” (Harper, p. 11). Another Protestant pastor says: “The initial hurdle to speaking in tongues, it seems, is simply the realization that you must ‘speak forth’…The first syllables and words may sound strange to your ear… They may be halting and inarticulate. You may have the thought that you are just making it up. But as you continue to speak in faith… the Spirit will shape for you a language of prayer and praise” (Christenson, p. 130). A Jesuit “theologian” tells how he put such advice into practice: “After breakfast I felt almost physically drawn to the chapel where I sat down to pray. Following Jim’s description of his own reception of the gift of tongues, I began to say quietly to myself “la, la, la, la.” To my immense consternation there ensued a rapid movement of tongue and lips accompanied by a tremendous feeling of inner devotion” (Gelpi, p. 1).

    Can any sober Orthodox Christian possibly confuse these dangerous psychic games with the gifts of the Holy Spirit?! There is clearly nothing whatever Christian, nothing spiritual here in the least. This is the realm, rather, of psychic mechanisms which can be set in operation by means of definite psychological or physical techniques, and “speaking in tongues” would seem to occupy a key role as a kind of “trigger” in this realm. In any case, it certainly bears no resemblance whatever to the spiritual gift described in the New Testament, and if anything is much closer to shaministic “speaking in tongues” as practiced in primitive religions, where the shaman or witch doctor has a regular technique for going into a trance and then giving a message to or from a “god” in a tongue he has not learned [4].
    — Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  10. Ecumenism and Charismaticism

    BEFORE QUOTING THE “CHARISMATIC” testimonies, we should take note of a chief characteristic of the original Pentecostal Movement which is seldom mentioned by “charismatic” writers, and that is that the number and variety of Pentecostal sects is astonishing, each with its own doctrinal emphasis, and many of them having no fellowship with the others. There are “Assemblies of God,” “Churches of God,” “Pentecostal” and “Holiness” bodies, “Full Gospel” groups, etc., many of them divided into smaller sects. The first thing that one would have to say about the “spirit” that inspires such anarchy is that it certainly is not a spirit of unity, in sharp contrast to the Apostolic church of the first century to which the movement professes to be returning. Nevertheless, there is much talk especially in the “charismatic revival” within the denominations in the past decade, of the “unity” which it inspires. But what kind of unity is this?-the true unity of the Church which Orthodox Christians of the first and twentieth centuries alike know, or the pseudo-unity of the Ecumenical Movement which denies that the Church of Christ exists?

    The answer to this question is stated quite clearly by perhaps the leading “prophet” of 20th-century Pentecostalism David Du Plessis, who for the last twenty years has been actively spreading news of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” among the denominations of the World Council of Churches, in answer to a “voice” which commanded him to do so in 1951. “The Pentecostal revival within the churches is gathering force and speed. The most remarkable thing is that this revival is found in the so-called liberal societies and much less in the evangelical and not at all in the fundamentalist segments of Protestantism. The last-mentioned are now the most vehement opponents of this glorious revival because it is in the Pentecostal Movement and in the modernist World Council Movements that we find the most powerful manifestations of the Spirit” (Du Plessis, p. 28, [2]).

    In the Roman Catholic Church likewise, the “charismatic renewal” is occurring precisely in “liberal” circles, and one of its results is to inspire even more their ecumenism and liturgical experimentation (“guitar masses” and the like); whereas traditionalist Catholics are as opposed to the movement as are fundamentalist Protestants. Without any doubt the orientation of the “charismatic revival” is strongly ecumenist. A “charismatic” Lutheran pastor, Clarence Finsaas, writes: “Many are surprised that the Holy Spirit can move also in the various traditions of the historic Church… whether the church doctrine has a background of Calvinism or Arminianism, this matters little, proving God is bigger than our creeds and that no denomination has a monopoly on Him” (Christenson, p. 99). An Episcopalian pastor, speaking of the “charismatic revival,” reports that “ecumenically it is leading to a remarkable joining together of Christians of different traditions, mainly at the local church level” (Harper, p. 17). The California “charismatic” periodical Inter-Church Renewal is full of “unity” demonstrations such as this one: “The darkness of the ages was dispelled and a Roman Catholic nun and a Protestant could love each other with a strange new kind of love,” which proves that “old denominational barriers are crumbling. Superficial doctrinal differences are being put aside for all believers to come into the unity of the Holy Spirit.” The Orthodox priest Fr. Eusebius Stephanou believes that “this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is transcending denominational lines… The Spirit of God is moving… both inside and outside the Orthodox Church” (Logos, Jan., 1972, p. 12).

    Here the Orthodox Christian who is alert to “try the spirits” finds himself on familiar ground, sown with the usual ecumenist cliches. And above all let us note that this new “outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” exactly like the Ecumenical Movement itself, arises outside the Orthodox Church; those few Orthodox parishes that are now taking it up are obviously following a fashion of the times that matured completely outside the bounds of the Church of Christ.

    But what is it that those outside the Church of Christ are capable of teaching Orthodox Christians? It is certainly true (no conscious Orthodox person will deny it) that Orthodox Christians are sometimes put to shame by the fervor and zeal of some Roman Catholics and Protestants for church attendance, missionary activities, praying together, reading the Scripture, and the like. Fervent non-Orthodox persons can shame the Orthodox, even in the error of their beliefs, when they make more effort to please God than many Orthodox people do while possessing the whole fullness of apostolic Christianity. The Orthodox would do well to learn from them and wake up to the spiritual riches in their own Church which they fail to see out of spiritual sloth or bad habits. All this relates to the human side of faith, to the human efforts which can be expended in religious activities whether one’s belief is right or wrong.

    The “charismatic” movement, however, claims to be in contact with God, to have found a means for receiving the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of God’s grace. And yet it is precisely the Church, and nothing else, that our Lord Jesus Christ established as the means of communicating grace to men. Are we to believe that the Church is now to be superseded by some “new revelation” capable of transmitting grace outside the Church, among any group of people who may happen to believe in Christ but who have no knowledge or experience of the Mysteries (Sacraments) which Christ instituted and no contact with the Apostles and their successors whom He appointed to administer the Mysteries? No: it is as certain today as it was in the first century that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not revealed in those outside the Church. The great Orthodox Father of the 19th century, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, writes that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given “precisely through the Sacrament of Chrismation, which was introduced by the Apostles in place of the laying on of hands” (which is the form the Sacrament takes in the Acts of the Apostles). “We all-who have been baptized and chrismated-have the gift of the Holy Spirit… even though it is not active in everyone.” The Orthodox Church provides the means for making this gift active, and “there is no other path… Without the Sacrament of Chrismation, just as earlier without the laying on of hands of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit has never descended and never will descend” [3].

    In a word, the orientation of the “charismatic revival” may be described as one of a new and deeper or “spiritual” ecumenism: each Christian “renewed” in his own tradition, but at the same time strangely united for it is the same experience with others equally “renewed” in their own traditions, all of which contain various degrees of heresy and impiety! This relativism leads also to openness to completely new religious practices, as when an Orthodox priest allows laymen to “lay hands” on him in front of the Royal Doors of an Orthodox church (Logos, April, 1972, p. 4).

    The end of all this is the super-ecumenist vision of the leading Pentecostal “prophet,” who says that many Pentecostals “began to visualize the possibility of the Movement becoming the Church of Christ in the closing days of time. However, this situation has completely changed during the past ten years. Many of my brethren are now convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and that the historic churches will be revived or renewed and then in this renewal be united by the Holy Spirit” (Du Plessis, p. 33). Clearly, there is no room in the “charismatic revival” for those who believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church of Christ. It is no wonder that even some Orthodox Pentecostals admit that in the beginning they were “suspicious of the Orthodoxy” of this movement (Logos, April, 1972, p. 9).

    As opposed to the true Orthodox spiritual life, the “charismatic revival” is only the experiential side of the prevailing “ecumenical” fashion – a counterfeit Christianity that betrays Christ and His Church. No Orthodox “charismatic” could possibly object to the coming “Union” with those very Protestants and Roman Catholics with whom, as the interdenominational “charismatic” song goes, they are already “one in the Spirit, one in the Lord,” and who have led them and inspired their “charismatic” experience. The “spirit” that has inspired the “charismatic revival” is the spirit of antichrist , or more precisely those “spirits of devils” of the last times whose “miracles” prepare the world for the false messiah.

    — Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply

  11. “But what precisely is this “spirit”? Significantly, this question is seldom if ever even raised by followers of the “charismatic revival”; their own “baptismal” experience is so powerful and has been preceded by such an effective psychological preparation in the form of concentrated prayer and expectation that there is never any doubt in their minds but that they have received the Holy Spirit and that the phenomena they have experienced and seen are exactly those described in the Acts of the Apostles. Too, the psychological atmosphere of the movement is often so one-sided and tense that it is regarded as the very blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to entertain any doubts in this regard. Of the hundreds of books that have already appeared on the movement, only a very few express any even slight doubts as to its spiritual validity.” – Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Comment by tuD | March 1, 2008 | Reply


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