Chapter 1 – Sorcery
Having spoken to you many times about Paradise, the Angels and the Saints so that you may be helped, I shall now also say a few words about Hell and the demons, so that you can be aware of who we're fighting against: again, so that you may be helped.
A young sorcerer from Tibet once visited me at my cell and told me a lot of things about his life. This child, no sooner was he weaned from his mother than his father dedicated it - at the age of three - to a group of thirty, high-ranking sorcerers in Tibet, in order to initiate it in their art. He reached the eleventh degree of sorcery - the twelfth being the highest. At the age of sixteen he left Tibet and went to Sweden, to see his father. While there, he happened to meet an Orthodox priest - a very devout one - and invited him to a conversation. In the room where they had sat down to talk, he began to do some of his magic, in order to show the priest his powers. He invoked an initial(1). demon, Menas, and said to it: "I want water". A glass rose up from the kitchen, it went to the tap on its own, the tap came on, it filled the glass with water, then it passed through the glass screen and entered the room they were in. He took the glass and drank the water. Then he "showed" the priest all the universe: the skies, the stars... He used magic of the fourth degree and intended to continue, up to the eleventh degree. He asked the priest what he thought of all those things.
"I was ready" he said, "to kill him if he dared to insult my Satan".
But the priest said nothing to him. Then the young man said to the priest:
"Why don't you conjure up some signs also?"
"Because my God is humble", the priest replied, and took out a crucifix which he had with him and asked the young man to hold it in his hand.
"Now try your magic again," he said.
The young man invoked Menas the initial demon once more, but Menas stood trembling, not daring to approach. He then invoked Satan, but the same thing happened: he could see the Crucifix and he wouldn't come near; he only told the young man to get up and leave for Tibet. The young man then broke out and cursed him: "I just realized" he said, "that your vast power is a pathetic weakness!"
He was afterwards catechized a little by the good priest, who spoke to him about the Holy Lands, the Holy Mountain etc.. So he left Sweden and went to Jerusalem where he witnessed the Holy Light. From there, he went on to America to give the Satanists there a piece of his mind and tell them to change their ways.... God had turned him into the best kind of preacher... From there, he came to the Holy Mountain.
The good Lord helped him scandalously, because he had been unjustly treated from a very young age. But you too should also say a prayer for him, because the sorcerers with all their demons are waging war against him. If they attack me whenever he comes for my help, just imagine how much more they are attacking him. Priests would read exorcisms over him, and his hands would split open and bleed profusely... The poor child... he is being horribly tormented by the demons, whereas initially, when he was friends with them, they didn't harass him, but only helped him and served him. Pray for him. However, he too needs to be extremely cautious, because the Gospel says that "when an unclean spirit departs from a man, it goes through dry places, seeking rest and finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first..." (2)
Sorcerers also utilize various "holy items"
-Elder, what are "charmers"?
-They are sorcerers. They use the Psalms of David, the names of Saints etc., and they combine them with invocations to demons. In other words, whereas we invoke God's help and accept Divine Grace when we read the Book of Psalms, in the way that they use it, they insult God, they reject Divine Grace, and thus the demons respond to their demands. They told me of a youth who had been to a sorcerer because he wanted to succeed in something. He read a passage from the Book of Psalms and the youth got what he wanted. But after a while, the young man began to wither away... the poor child began to melt away... What had the sorcerer done? He had taken a handful of dried nuts and began to read the 50th Psalm. When he reached the verse that said "sacrifice to God"(3), he tossed down the dried nuts, thus symbolically making an offering to the demons so that they would do him the favour. In that way, he was abusing God through his use of the Book of Psalms.
-Elder, there are some who dabble in sorcery and even use the Cross, icons etc...
-Yes, I know... you can tell from that alone, just how much fraud is hiding behind what they do! That's how they fool poor unsuspecting people, who see candles, icons etc. being used, and they trust those frauds! Ah, a person once told me about this Turkish woman in the town that he lived.... she had placed an icon of the Holy Mother on top of a rock and would proclaim: "This is the rock that helps people"! She didn't say "the Holy Mother", but "the rock" that helps them! Christians became confused, because they would see the icon of the Holy Mother and when there are cases of people with a health problem, they rush over there, thinking that they will actually receive help, but the devil then wreaks havoc on them... Because, when the Turkish woman claims that the rock - not the Holy Mother - helps people, well, from then on, the devil takes over, because the Holy Mother is clearly being disrespected. The Grace of God withdraws, and demon-possession takes its place. And so, Christians run to be cured by a rock - a rock AND a demon (!!) - and in the end they become debilitated, because.... well, what kind of help would you really expect from the devil? If they had even a speck of sense, they would have thought to themselves: "This is a Turk, a Muslim; what is she doing with the Holy Mother's icon?" Even though claiming that the Holy Mother helps, the fact alone that she is a Muslim is enough to make one wonder what her connection to the Holy Mother is... let alone to claim that a rock will help them!
I mentioned all these things to someone, to alert the local Metropolis accordingly so that it will take the necessary measures to protect the people.
-Elder, people ask us for talismans (charms).
-It's better if you give them miniature crosses when they ask you for talismans. Don't make talismans, because even sorcerers make talismans nowadays, but inside them, they place all sorts of spells. People see an icon or a cross and become confused. See, just a few days ago, they brought me a talisman that was made by a Turk named Ibrahim and yet, it had a cross embroidered on it. I have been told of an ungodly individual, who takes various little icons and wraps them around items such as hairs, twigs, pins, beads (4) etc.. When the Church questioned him, he simply said "I am a medium", because mediums are allowed to act freely and so he is free to do whatever he wants. I advised someone who had suffered damage because of that medium: "Go and confess, because you are subjected to demonic influences". He went to confession. Then he came back to me and said "I still can't feel any difference." "Hmm... do you by any chance have something on your person that was given to you by that deluded one?" I asked him. "Yes" he said, I have a tiny little hollow box, something like a miniature Gospel." I took it, opened it, and found inside it a number of little icons, all folded. I unwrapped them, one by one, and inside them were beads, hairs, and something else that looked like wood splinters. I got rid of them all, and the man was released.... Do you see how crafty the devil is?
Poor souls - they wear talismans of that sort, supposedly to be helped, but instead they end up tormented. Those items should be burnt and the ashes buried, or be thrown into the sea, and then they should go to confess.
One other time, a young man came to my Hut, who had numerous problems and was being oppressed in body and soul for more than four years. He had lived a life of sin, and lately, he had shut himself inside his house, not wishing to see another human being. Two friends of his - who regularly came to the Holy Mountain - convinced him after many attempts to go along with them to the Holy Mountain, in the hope of bringing him to my Hut. On the trip from the port of Ouranoupolis and until they reached the main port of Dafni, every time the ferry boat came alongside a Monastery mooring, the young man would collapse. His friends, together with the fathers who were also on the boat, strove to revive him by saying the Prayer. It was with great difficulty that they managed to reach the Hut inland. That poor soul opened up his heart to me and told me all about his life. I could see he was being plagued by some kind of demonic influence. I advised him to go to a spiritual father confessor nearby, and do whatever he advises him to do, so he would recover afterwards. He did actually go and confess. When they boarded the ferry boat for the return trip, he told his friends that the spiritual father instructed him to throw away the talisman that he wore (which an acquaintance of his had given him), into the sea. But it was impossible for him to remove it. No matter how much his friends begged him to get up and throw it away, he remained frozen like a statue, unable to get up from his seat. So they grabbed him and with a lot of struggling they led him outside, onto the deck. With the help of his friends, the young man finally managed to remove the talisman and allowed it to drop into the sea - he didn't have the strength to actually toss it overboard. However, he immediately felt his arms had been freed and that his poor tormented body had regained its strength... he began to jump for joy, running up and down the deck, full of life, and testing the strength of his hands on the railings and the sides of the ferry boat....
-Elder, do sorcerers acquire some sort of information?
-They are informed, by the devil, but they also tell many lies. But you yourselves should also pay attention in the refectory. You need to be in control of the situation, see what kind of people enter there, because among them may be a person who is involved with sorcery. Does it sound strange to you? In one of the night-vigils that took place here, there came two individuals who dealt in magic things. They approached the other people and told them all sorts of things. They also lied about being associated with Bishop Kantiotis. They told one of the women "They have placed a spell on you. We can come to your place and break the spell with a crucifix that we have." So you see, they actually come along to night-vigils, they talk a little spiritually, and the others simply assume "well, if they have come to the night-vigil and speak spiritually, they must be faithful people" and they proceed to open up their hearts to them.
How they manage to fool people with the lies they tell! In an attempt to seduce a young woman, this man went up to her and said "Father Paisios saw a vision that I will marry you; here, take this token, without examining what it is exactly" and he gave her something that was magic, but she fortunately didn't wear it. She only exclaimed "Is this the kind of thing that Paisios concerns himself with?" and she proceeded to write me a letter - four whole pages long, densely written and full of abusive language... Such abuse !!! "That's alright" I replied, "swear at me as much as you like. It's worth it, just knowing that you weren't fooled into wearing that satanic article!"
-Did she know you, Elder?
-No, she didn't know me. And I didn't know them either - not her, nor that man..
-Elder, what did you tell the students who came today and told you that they had invoked a spirit?
-What could I tell them? I first gave them a good earful! What they did was a denial of the faith. From the moment that they invoked the devil and accepted him, they denied God. That's why I told them that, to begin with, they should go and confess everything with sincerity, and from now on to take care and go to church regularly and receive Holy Communion with the blessing of their spiritual father in order to be purged. They had extenuating circumstances, because they are youngsters and they did it because they saw it as a game. If they were older, they would have been severely harmed; the devil would have acquired immense power over them... nevertheless, they are still being shaken by the devil...
-What exactly did they do, Elder?
-What many others do... they place a glass of water on a table, and they position the letters of the alphabet around the glass... A..B..C.. etc. Then they dip their finger in the water and they invoke the spirit - that is, the devil. The glass then moves around, and it stops in front of consecutive letters and forms words. They invoked the spirit, so, when it arrived, they asked it "Does God exist?" "He doesn't exist!" it replied. "Who are you?" they asked again. "Satan!" it replied. "Does Satan exist?" "He does!" Talk about gross idiocy! God doesn't exist, but the devil does ??When they asked it again if God exists, it replied "Yes, He does". One "yes" and one "no" and the youngsters got confused. That was how God arranged for things to happen, in order to help them. One of the girls in that group was struck by the glass. God permitted this, so that the others would be jolted into realization.
Nowadays, there are many who, when wishing to harm another person, resort to "witch doctors" who use waxen voodoo dolls(5). The sorcerers have turned this into a game.
-Elder, what exactly do they do?
-They make a doll out of wax, and, when someone asks them to cause harm to a personal enemy - say, for example, to harm his enemy's eyes - they stick a needle into the doll's eyes and repeat the name of the person that they intend to harm, and at the same time utter various spells. And it is a fact - if the targeted person lives a sinful life and does not confess - he will indeed be struck by a demonic force in his eyes. His eyes will feel as though they are being ripped out with an excruciating pain! He will do all sorts of medical exams, but the doctors will not be able to find what the cause is.
And see what damage mediums also cause! It isn't enough that they take money from people, they even break up families! For example, someone goes to a medium and discusses a problem that they have. "Look here", the medium says, "a relative of yours - a dark-haired, tall woman etc... has been casting spells on you". So, that person begins a search to discover which relative has those characteristics. He will eventually find a woman that fits the description, even if approximately. "Ah", he will think, "this is surely the one who has been casting spells on me" and will inevitably begin to feel a hatred towards her. And that poor woman will be totally oblivious of the situation - not to mention she may have even been his benefactor - and will now find herself confronting his exasperation towards her and not wanting to even see her! So that person goes back to the medium and is advised that: "Now we must break the spells, but to do that, you need to pay some money". "Well", he will think to himself, "since the medium discovered the spells, I should pay up!" ..... Money, money, money....
Do you see what the devil does? He plants scandals. A good person, even if he does know something about someone else, will never say "So-and-so has harmed you"; instead, he will try to help him. He will advise him, to not make any negative thoughts, but to go to confession and not be afraid. That way, he helps both. Because when the one who intended to cause harm notices that he is being treated with kindness, he will stop to ponder (in the good sense) and will repent.
-Elder, can a sorcerer cure a sick person?
-A sorcerer? Curing a sick person? If a person is being convulsed by a demon, the sorcerer can "cure" him, by... sending the demon to another person. Given that the sorcerer is partners with the devil, he simply says to the devil "Get out of that person, and go to so-and-so". So the devil removes the demon from that person, but usually sends it to a relative or an acquaintance of that person (who has given leeway to the devil). Then the one who was rid of the demon will say "I was tormented, but so-and-so (the sorcerer) made me well", thus actually advertising the sorcerer! The demon then ends up entering relatives or acquaintances. However, if a person is hunchbacked on account of sorcery, a sorcerer can rid him of that demon and send it to someone else. But if that person is hunchbacked on account of a physical disability, a sorcerer is not able to cure him.
I was told of a woman who supposedly cured sick people with the use of various "holy items". When I heard what she did, I was amazed at the devil's artfulness. She holds a Cross in her hand and chants various troparia (hymns). For example, she chants "Virgin Theotokos", then spits near the Cross (in other words, blasphemes Christ) and that's how the little demon brat helps her. Thus, those who are sick - with depression etc., on account of demonic influences - she could cure them because she would drive out the demon that was causing it, then send it to someone else so that the first victim would be relieved of the depression. And there are many who regard her as a saint! They go to her for help, and gradually, she harms their soul... she destroys them...
One needs to be very careful, to keep away from sorcerers and sorcery, the way one would avoid fire and snakes. We should not confuse things: The devil can never do any good. He can only "cure" the sicknesses that he himself provokes. I was told of the following incident: A young man had gotten involved with a certain sorcerer and had begun to dabble in sorcery himself. He was eventually harmed, got sick, and ended up in hospital. His father spent a lot of money over many months, because at the time, they were not insured. The doctors couldn't understand what was wrong with him. He had become a mess! What did the devil do then? He appeared before him in the guise of Saint John the Baptist (who was the patron saint of the young man's home town) and said to him: "I will make you better, if your father builds a church". The young man told this to his father and that poor fellow said "My child, I will give everything I have, as long as you get well" and he made a promise to the Baptist to build a church in his name. The devil departed and the young man recovered; the devil had performed his "miracle" ! So the father thinks to himself: "I made a promise to build a church. I must fulfil that promise." Their finances weren't very strong, so, in order to build the church, the father sold all the properties that he had - he gave up his entire fortune. His children were left stranded; they became exasperated, "We can do without Orthodoxy" they said, and went off to become Jehovah's Witnesses. See what the devil does? There weren't any Jehovah's Witnesses in that region, and the devil found a way for them to appear there as well!
-Elder, when do spells work?
-In order for spells to work, one has to have given rights to the devil. In other words give him a serious reason, and not have put oneself in order with repentance and confession. To a person who confesses, even if spells are shovelled onto him, they won't affect him at all. Because if that person has been to confession and has a cleansed heart, no collaboration whatsoever between sorcerers and the devil is able to harm him.
One time, a middle-aged man came to my Hut with a suspicious air about him... From a distance, when I first spotted him, I could tell he was under a demonic influence.
"I came here so you can help me", he said. "Pray for me, because I've been having terrible headaches for a whole year, and doctors can't find what's wrong."
"You've got a demon", I said to him, "because you've given rights to the devil".
"But I didn't do anything!"
"You didn't do anything?" I replied. "Didn't you cheat on a young woman? Well, she went and had a spell put on you. Go and ask her to forgive you, then go to confession, ask to have Exorcisms read over you, and you will regain your health. If you can't perceive your error and don't repent, even if all the spiritual fathers in the world get together and pray for you, the demon won't leave you."
When people like him come to me, with such an air, I speak to them openly. They need to be shaken up in order to come to realization.
One other man told me that his wife was demon-possessed; that she constantly created a fuss at home. She would get up at night, wake up the others, and turn everything upside-down.
"Do you go to confession?" I asked him.
"No", he replied.
"You must surely have given rights to the devil", I said to him. "This couldn't have happened out of nowhere."
In the end, we discovered that he had been to a Hodja, who had given him something to sprinkle on his house "for good luck", so that his business would prosper, but he didn't pay any attention to this fact... After that, the devil began wreaking havoc in his home.
-If spells do work, Elder, how can they be broken?
-With repentance and confession. That's why we must firstly locate the cause that made the spells work; the person must understand the error of his ways, repent and confess. So many people come to my Hut who are terribly tormented because someone has placed spells on them, and they say: "Say a prayer for me, to get rid of this torment!" They ask for my help, without first trying to find where the evil started so that they might correct it. In other words, to discover what their fault was - which caused the spells to work on them - then to repent and confess so that their torment may end.
-Elder, when someone who has been put under an evil spell reaches such a state where he can't even help himself - to confess etc. - can others help him ?
-They can invite a priest to his home to perform the Holy Unction or read Prayers of Sanctification. They can give him to drink of the holy water so that the evil element can recede a little, and Christ enter inside that person. This is what a mother did for her child and was helped. She had told me that her son suffered immensely, because they had placed him under an evil spell.
"He should go to confession", I had advised her.
"How can he go, father, to confession, in the condition he's in?"
"Then tell your spiritual father to come to your home, to read the Sanctification Prayers and then give your son to drink some of the holy water. But will he drink it?"
"He will drink it" she replied.
"Well then, begin with the holy water" I suggested, "then try to get the youth to speak to the priest. If he confesses, the priest will kick out the demon."
And she did, in fact, heed my advice and the young man was helped. After a while, he was able to go to confession and he recovered.
Another woman - poor soul - what do you think she did? Her husband had become involved with sorcerers and didn't even want to wear a Cross on him. To help him somewhat, she sewed a tiny Cross into the lapel of his jacket. Once, when he had to cross a bridge to get to the opposite bank of a river, he heard a voice calling out to him: "Tasso! Tasso! Take off your jacket, and we can cross the bridge together!"
Fortunately it was cold, so he said: "Why take it off? I'm cold!"
"Take it off! Take it off, so we can cross over!" he heard the same voice calling out to him.
That wicked devil! He intended to throw him into the river but was unable to, because he had that tiny Cross on him. He finally threw him down, in another spot on the bridge. In the meantime, his folks were looking for him, all through the night. They found the poor fellow sprawled on the bridge. If it wasn't so cold, he would have taken off his jacket and the devil would have tossed him into the water. He was protected by the Cross that was in his lapel. His poor wife was a strong believer. If she didn't have any faith, would she have done that for him?
-Elder, can't a man who has sanctity expose or hinder a sorcerer ?
-How can he stop him? It's hard enough telling someone who is even a little God-fearing to be careful because the way he is living will not lead to something good; if he won't change his ways, then how much less will the sorcerer who collaborates with the devil? What can you do with him? You could tell him a few things, but he will continue to be with the devil. Only when the sorcerer is in front of you and you say the Prayer, the demon may get confused and the sorcerer will be unable to do his business...
There was a person who had a problem, and a sorcerer - who was a big con artist - went to his house in order to help him. The person however was saying the Prayer; he was a simple person - he didn't know that the other man was a sorcerer - and that's why God intervened. And look what God permitted to happen, so that he might realize! The sorcerer began to be beaten by the demons, and he had to cry out for help from the man whose problem he went to solve!
-Elder, was that man able to see the demons?
-He couldn't see the demons! All he could see was a bizarre sight: the sorcerer crying out for help, tumbling around, falling down, putting his hand up to protect his head.... Because don't imagine that sorcerers have it easy; or that the demons always respond to their wishes. It is enough for them that he denied Christ once. At first, sorcerers make a deal with demons to receive their help, and the demons submit to them for a few years. But after a while, they say "are we still going to be bothered with you?" Especially if sorcerers don't succeed in doing what the demons want - have you any idea what they suffer afterwards?
I remember once, when talking outside my Hut with that young sorcerer from Tibet: he suddenly got up, grabbed my arms and twisted them behind my back, saying "now let's see your Chief(6) free you!".
"Get the hell away from here!" I said to him, and threw him down. The nerve of him, blaspheming the Saint! He then tried to strike me with his foot, but his foot stopped short of my mouth. God protected me. I left him, and returned to my cell. Then after a while I saw him coming back towards me, covered with thorns. "Satan punished me" he said, "because I didn't defeat you. He dragged me through the shrubs".
The black powers of darkness are powerless. People make them powerful with their alienation from God, because that's when they give the devil rights."
Notes for Chapter 1:
1.Initial: superior, master demon. One of the demon leaders. According to the Fathers, demons group together in legions.
2. Matthew 12:45.
3. Psalm 50:19.
4. The 61st Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council ordains the excommunication of "Phylakterians" - that is, those who manufacture talismans in which they place demonic symbols or various items (such as hairs, fingernail clippings, snake bones or bat bones etc.) on which they have previously transmitted demonic energy through magical practices.
5. A kind of magic that is exercised during traditional religious worship in Haiti and South America. The term is derived from the word "voodoo", which implies a god or a spirit.
6. Saint Arsenius the Cappadocian.
Chapter 2 - Regarding the demonically possessed
-Elder, how many demons lived inside the demon possessed Gadarene (1)?
-«Many demons» (2), according to the Gospel. That's why the possessed man said that his name was «legion»(3). And you should note that, just as a whole lot of demons can dwell inside a possessed person, in the same way, all the Saints can fit inside a faithful's heart. If Christ can fit in there, then the Saints most certainly can! Such huge mysteries! One time, when I was at the Hut of the Precious Cross, someone rang the doorbell outside. I looked through the window, and what did I see? A man that was being trailed by an entire column of demons - a black swarm of them! It was the first time that I have ever seen a man possessed by so many demons. He was a medium: he had combined benedictions of the Church with invocations to demons; Christian books with books of magic spells; this was the reason he was under the power of the demons. Terrible!! I was greatly sorrowed...
Some psychiatrists regard the demon-possessed as psychopaths. But then, some priests also claim that certain psychopaths are demon-possessed. The fact remains, that a psychopath should go elsewhere to be helped and a demon-possessed person elsewhere. But can a psychiatrist help the demon-possessed? (4)
-Elder, is a demon-possessed person in a position to understand what he was guilty of, that rendered him demon-possessed?
-Yes, he can. Unless his brain was affected also, in which case, it is very difficult to help him. If he is only demon-possessed, it is much easier to communicate with him and help him., but he must obey - otherwise how will he be helped?
One time a person from southern Greece visited me at my Hut; he had been to India and had become demon-possessed. He spouted all kinds of swear words and foamed at the mouth. His eyes were wide open, with a wild gaze. I kept telling him "stop swearing, because that's how you invite the demons" but he wouldn't listen. And yet, he had come to me for help. He kept saying "help me - only you can help me". So I told him "How do you expect me to help? You want me to pray so that you can be released with the Grace of Jesus Christ, but you keep inviting the demons. Go and confess, ask for the Exorcisms to be read over you, then come to me to discuss the matter". But he replied "I won't go". So I said "Come inside, and let me dab some oil from the Icon lamp on you". "I don't want that - I want you to help me". Then he went off and began to talk to someone else. Then after a while, while I was telling another group of visitors that God permits trials for our salvation, that person shouted from a distance "Hey, you! Why do you say that God works so that people might be saved? We have a father in heaven, and one on earth, and further up there's a lord(5)». «Enough with the demonology!», I said to him, and inside me I was reciting the Prayer. «Now you've confused me», he said. «Go away!», I said to him, and brushed him away from me. He curled up into a ball. «Whose side are you on?», he asked me. «Christ's», I replied. «You're lying - you're not on Christ's side, since I am Christ and you're attacking me». .... See how the devil had presented things in reverse?
-That's what the devil says?
-Yes, the devil, but you see God gave him the courage to come as far as the Holy Mountain. For him to have set off from the other end of Greece to come to the Mountain in such a state is a huge thing! Unfortunately however, he wouldn't listen and so became worse. If he had shown obedience, he would have received help....
Man can become demonically possessed, through diabolical pride
Whoever has a whole lot of pride is in the dark. His mind is in turmoil, as though it's overcome by exhaust fumes. He will make clumsy mistakes and not realize it. His perception will have reached such a degree of darkness that, no matter what you tell him to help him, he will not understand. He will say that you're pressuring him! He calls that pressuring? Try taking that thought out of his head... No, he isn't insane, since his brain is still working. He needs to understand that what he says is a denial, a blaspheming.
That's how they gradually get to the point of Satan-worship. If you observe Satan-worshippers, you can tell they're possessed by the devil. You can discern a certain state of possession about them. And they lure poor unsuspecting children wherever they want, with their compelling music. They go as far as actually invoking Satan. I have heard that if you play certain "rock" records backwards(6), you will hear subliminal messages by which they invoke the devil. They even have glorifications of Satan: «I dedicate myself to you, Satan». Terrible!
-Elder, do you mean that pride can lead to demonic possession?
-Yes. Let's suppose that someone makes a mistake and then strives to justify himself. If someone attempts to say a word or two to help him, he will say that they're being unfair; he will believe he is better than them and will censure them. Then he will gradually begin to judge the Saints - first the recent ones, then the older ones: «He didn't perform miracles, the other one did this and that…». Then he will go even further and begin to judge the Synods: «...even the Synods, the way they reached their decisions...», so that even the Synods in his opinion don't have precision. Finally, he will even go as far as to say: «And why did God do things that way?». Well, when a person reaches that point, he hasn't become insane; he has become demon-possessed.
A demon-possessed young man had come to my Hut with his father, claiming that he was a god. He had gone to a spiritual father-confessor in the world, but the priest, out of fear that the devil might pounce on him, said to the young man: «Then you bless me» (!!!) What can you say?... Anyway, he kept telling his father: «you'll see, even Father Paisios will acknowledge that I'm a god». So he placed a bet with his father, with all the money that they had on them, that I would recognize him as a god. As soon as I began to "work" my prayer-rope, he sprang up from his seat. «What are you doing with that?» he shouted. «I have committed every kind of sin. I have the devil inside me and have become deified. You have to admit that I am a god! You, old man, have done nothing at all», he continued. «All you do is keep fiddling around with that (the prayer-rope)!» He went on, blurting out some very heavy accusations! I became exasperated. «Go on, get out of here, you loser!», I said to him. I gave him a thorough brush-off. He went berserk, turned into a wild animal. He took out the money that he had in his pocket, and tossed it towards his father, saying: «Here, take it! I lost the bet»...
The demonically possessed react towards whatever is sacred
-Elder, how does one understand if a person is demon possessed and not a psychopath?
-That can be discerned by any ordinary doctor - a pious doctor will perceive it immediately. When those who suffer from demon possession approach anything sacred, they flinch. That makes it perfectly obvious they are demon-possessed. If you give them a little holy water or make the sign of the Cross over them with a holy Relic they will react vigorously, because the demons inside them are being "cornered" (whereas if they are psychopaths, they will not react at all). Even if you are wearing a Cross and you approach them, they become disturbed and are shaken. Once, during a night-vigil on the Holy Mountain, the fathers told me that they could sense that one of the laity present was demon-possessed. I sat in the pew next to his, and touched him with my cross, which had a small sliver of the Precious Cross inside it. He sprang up from his seat, then went and sat at the other end. When the churchgoers began to leave, I went and stood near him very discreetly. The same thing happened. I realized that he was indeed demon-possessed.
When they bring little children to me at the Hut and tell me that they might be demon-possessed, I sometimes take a segment of the holy Relic of Saint Arsenios and clasp it in my fist, in order to verify if it is indeed a case of demon possession. And you should see, if a child is demon-possessed, it will stare in terror at the hand that has the holy Relic (secretly) clasped in it. But if the child is not possessed, and is suffering from - say - a cerebral problem, it will not react at all. In other cases, I may offer a drink of water which I have previously blessed (secretly) with a segment of a holy Relic; if they are demon-possessed, they won't accept it; they will actually back away. In the case of a little boy, I had given it some sweets first - to get it thirsty - then I brought it some of the blessed water. «To Johnny - I said - I will give the best kind of water». As soon as the boy swallowed the first sip, he began to shout: «This water is burning me up! What's in it?» «Nothing», I said to him. «What are you doing to me? It's burning me up», he screamed. «It's not burning you; it's burning someone else», I said. I then crossed the boy on his head, and his arms and legs flinched spasmodically... He went into a demonic fit... The demon had made a mess of him...
Do you also remember that student who had come here in the past? "I have a demon inside me" - he had told me - "and it's tormenting me a lot. I am going through torture thanks to the demon, because it's also forcing me to utter profanities. I have reached the point of desperation. I feel it pushing against me from the inside; gripping me sometimes here and sometimes there", and the poor man would point to his abdomen, his chest, his ribs, his arms... Well, seeing how sensitive he was, and in order to not hurt his feelings and only to console him, I said: "Look, there is no demon inside you; it's only an external demonic influence that's upon you". When we went to the church, I instructed the nuns who were there to pray for the unfortunate creature of God, while I went and took a segment of Saint Arsenius' holy Relic from the Sanctum. I approached him, and asked him again: "Where is the spot that the demon is pressuring you and tormenting you? Where do you think it is?", so he pointed to his ribs. "Where? Here?" I asked him again, and pressed my fist against that spot, with the holy Relic clasped in that palm. He let out such a scream! "You scorched me! You scorched me! I won't go awayyyyyyyy! I won't leave!". He shouted, he swore, he cursed and uttered various profanities. Then I began to mentally say: "Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ, drive out the unclean spirit from Your creature", and continued to make the sign of the Cross on him with the segment of the holy Relic. This continued for about twenty minutes. After that, the demon threw him down and he began to flounder; he tumbled around in every direction; his suit became thoroughly dusty. We lifted him to an upright position. He was shaking all over and making various spasmodic movements. He grabbed onto the iconostasis for support. Sweat was pouring from his hands - it was like dew on grass. The demon left him after a while, and he calmed down. He recovered, and is now just fine.
Do not pay attention to the words of the demon-possessed
-Elder, what should one pay attention to, when talking to a demon-possessed person?
-He should repeat the Prayer, and treat him with kindness.
-Elder, do the demon-possessed remember what they had said during their crisis?
-Some things they remember and other things they don't. We don't know how God works. Sometimes He allows them to remember, so that they might be humbled and repent. Then again, when a demon-possessed person asks for something, it is not easy for one to perceive when the request is by the devil or if that person truly needs it. I had once met a demon-possessed young woman. She had read Kazantzakis' books and came to believe certain blasphemous things, and finally ended up possessed. The demon suddenly took hold of her and she began to scream "I'm burning up! I'm burning up!" Her folks held her down for me to sign her with the Cross. Then she screamed "Water! Water!" So I said "Bring her some water." "No, no" her folks replied, "because someone told us not to obey what the demon says." "But the poor girl is thirsty now" I said; "bring her some water". I could tell when burning is attributed to the devil and when it is genuine thirst. The poor soul gulped down a couple of glasses of water... "Burning coals...." she said. "That's the kind of burning that I felt. Even if I were to drink a whole bucket of water, it wouldn't put out the fire inside me." That's how intense the burning sensation felt!
-Elder, when a demon-possessed person begins to shout, how can we tell when it's the demon speaking through that person, and when it's actually the person himself?
-When it's the demon speaking, the person's lips don't move normally; they move somehow mechanically. Whereas when a person is speaking, his lips move in a normal manner. When a demon-possessed person is shouting while exorcisms are being read or when others are praying for him, sometimes the soul itself is tormented, and it will say -for example- to the demon "go away - why are you still here?" and at other times the demon will curse the possessed person, or the priest, or it will blaspheme Christ, the Holy Mother, the Saints... It will sometimes utter lies, or, sometimes will be pressured by the truth. Then again, the demon-possessed person might utter things that come from spiritual material that he has read. These things are so complicated. That's why, when you do talk to a person like that, you should be careful... very careful. Don't pay attention to his words. He might utter -for example- "you're burning me". If one indeed feels that they're "burning" the demon and they say to themselves "I've burnt the demon", then they're doomed. If they aren't "burning" the demon but believe that they are, then they're doubly doomed. It may also cry out "you're filthy", but to a specific person it may say "you're clean". If that person believes those utterings, woe betide! That person is doomed! That's why you shouldn't experiment with the devil.
A demon-possessed person was taken to a monastery, and the abbot there instructed the fathers to go to the chapel and pray for him with their prayer-ropes. In that monastery, they also had as a holy relic the head of Saint Parthenios (7), bishop of Lampsacus; this had the demon "cornered" quite a bit. At the same time, the abbot assigned the reading of exorcisms to a certain priest-monk. This monk was pious outwardly, but inside he was secretly arrogant. He was a fighter and a stickler in everything he did. He used to counsel the others, because he was also scholarly. He himself however would not receive help from anyone, because out of respect, they would hesitate to tell him whenever they saw him doing something incorrectly. He had created illusions inside himself that he was the most virtuous one in the monastery etc., so the evil one grabbed the opportunity that day to harm him. The demon implemented its wickedness and made him think that he was driving it out of the demon-possessed person. So, as soon as he began to read the exorcisms, the demon began to cry out "You're burning me! Why are you sending me away, you cruel one?" - which made him believe that the demon was being burnt by his exorcisms - when it was the praying by the other brethren that was pressuring the demon. So, he replied to the demon "Come to me". These words had been uttered by Saint Parthenios to a demon, but he was a saint: once, when a demon was crying out "I'm burning, I'm burning, where should I go?" the Saint replied "Come to me". But during that incident, the demon replied to the Saint: "your name alone burns me, Parthenios!" and immediately departed from the possessed person. Well, that monk attempted to act like Saint Parthenios, but became possessed himself. From that moment on, the demon controlled him for years on end, and he couldn't find rest anywhere. He was constantly on the move - sometimes outside, in the world, and other times on the Holy Mountain. How that poor soul was tormented! That terrible state had caused weariness to his soul, as well as physical fatigue accompanied by tremors. And you know, even though he used to be a good priest, he could no longer minister (8). See what the devil can do?
-Elder, does coffee drinking have anything to do with the reactions of a possessed person?
-When the nervous system is upset and one has too much coffee, the nerves become weakened and the little imp exploits that state. It's not that coffee itself is something demonic. The little imp makes use of that reaction to the nerves and the possessed person's reaction becomes even worse.
-Elder, it says somewhere that the devil lurks inside the heart of the demonically-possessed, but does not want that person to be aware of it, for fear of being cast out by the Prayer. Is that so?
-Yes, because the demon is given the right to remain inside the possessed person for a time and is therefore able to lurk there, whereas with the Prayer, it is pressured, it revolts and can flee. The Prayer is "heavy artillery" to the devil. They had brought a demon-possessed young man to my Hut, who repeated the Prayer continuously. His father was a monk, but had discarded his monastic habit and got married, so the poor lad was born with a demon. That was how God's providence allowed matters - so that the young man reap a reward, his father be saved, and we monks have as a brake such examples of monks leaving their calling and thereafter being tormented. Anyway, the demon in him was suddenly roused and the young man began to cluck like a hen. "What's the matter?" I asked him (while I was mentally saying "In the name of Jesus Christ, come out you unclean spirit from this creature of God!") "I want to depart" shouted the demon "because he is tormenting me so much by constantly repeating the Prayer... I want to get away to Pakistan, to find some peace and quiet!"
-Elder, why didn't the demon leave the young man, if he was saying the Prayer?
-It must have been because the young man had also given the demon certain rights, but the demon had its own boss from who it was receiving instructions.
-Elder, when one prays for a demon-possessed person, what should one say?
-First of all, one should glorify God: "Thank You my God" he should say "for helping me so that I am in this state when I could have been in this person's situation, with not only five or six demons, but thousands. I beg You, please help Your servant who is in so much suffering." In other words, one should first say a prayer from the heart and then continue with the Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Your servant." Sometimes, we who pray can become the cause for the demon to not depart from the possessed person, because we pray with arrogance. For instance even if we make the slightest arrogant thought "ah, my prayer will help to drive out the demon", divine assistance is immediately hindered and we instead help the demon to remain in place.
We should always pray for the demon-possessed with humility, with heartache and with love. There was this demon-possessed woman who really made my soul ache. The poor thing, she showed condescension to the devil by saying "yes" to it, and it has been plaguing her for years. It has been burning her flesh. She and her husband go from monastery to monastery - and they even drag their 16-year old daughter with them - and they sit all night in church during night-vigils. If she were a man, I would hug her tightly - the demon suffers terribly, when you embrace the possessed person with divine love... When you don't aggravate the demon-possessed person and don't go against him/her but instead feel compassion, the demon will depart, for a short or a long while. Humility is the worst kind of "shock" for the devil. In a monastery, during the time that the pilgrims were venerating the holy Relics, one of the visitors (who was possessed) suddenly burst out, saying to the abbot in an angry voice: "Are we forced to do this?" . The abbot responded with kindness, saying "No, not forced. With your own will". Then the man replied "I will go and do it, by force!" and rushed towards the holy Relics and venerated them. See? The demon was pressured by the abbot's humble attitude and kindness. That's what demons are afraid of....
-Elder, are the demon-possessed helped any by the grace of the Saints, when they go on a pilgrimage on the day the Saint is commemorated?
-It is best if the demon-possessed do not go to the fairs on feast-days, because they distract the others from their prayers. They become the cause for unruliness. It's better if they go on the following day. And even if their folks know that there is someone there who can help him, it's best if they don't take him to that person on that day, from within the crowd. What? Are we concerned about advertising? Likewise, it isn't proper for people to gather around when a demon-possessed person is crying out. There was this little child that was possessed, poor thing, who said to me the other day "I became an embarrassment". The crowd had flocked around it like seagulls. They don't realize that when someone has a trait and it becomes obvious in front of people, they make that person feel embarrassed.
-Elder, does Holy Communion help the demon-possessed?
-For those who were born possessed - and because they were not to blame for it - frequent Holy Communion is the most drastic medicine. They are in for a huge reward if they don't moan about it until they are released through the Grace of God. They are martyrs, if they remain patient, which is why it is recommended that they receive Holy Communion frequently. However, if one becomes possessed through his own carelessness, he must first repent, then confess, and then fight to be healed and receive Holy Communion - with his spiritual father's permission of course, when the time is appropriate. If he receives Communion without repenting and without confession, he will become even more possessed. A demon-possessed man who was taken to receive Holy Communion, spat it out! Christ sacrificed Himself, He condescended to give him His Body and His Blood, and he was spitting it out! Monstrous! You see, the devil does not accept any help...
-Elder, can we give their names to be read during the Proskomide?
-Yes, of course. The demon-possessed are greatly helped when priests read out their names during the Proskomide with a pained heart.
-Elder, when someone who was possessed and has repented, has confessed and has received Communion but is not rid of the demonic influence, what has happened?
-The demon hasn't left him, because his spiritual condition is not yet stable. If God helps him immediately to be rid of the demonic influence, he will immediately get off track again. That is why God - out of His immeasurable love - allows the evil influence to depart gradually. That way, the person both "pays the price" and also stabilizes his spiritual state. The more he perseveres, the more that evil will recede. It will depend on him, just how quickly he will be rid of the evil influence. Once, a father approached me, whose child was demon possessed: "When will my child get well?" he asked me. "When you stabilize your own spiritual state, it too will be helped" I replied. The poor child - even though it was living spiritually, its father reacted inappropriately and kept telling the child that it would become insane if it didn't change its ways. The father himself began to take the boy to brothels, after which, the child drifted away and became possessed. Whenever the demon overcame him, he would attack his mother with a savage predisposition. The poor mother was forced to flee to an island to save herself. The father had repented eventually and struggled to live spiritually, but the boy would not get well. After taking his son to all the pilgrimages and having learnt all the lives of Saints by heart and stabilized his condition, only then did the boy recover.
-Elder, they brought a demon-possessed woman here and they asked us to tell the priest to read exorcisms over her. What should we have done?
-In a case like that, it would have been better if you had suggested that her spiritual father take care of the matter. For the devil to be inside her, it means that she must have committed a serious sin - or her parents did - thus giving rights to the devil, because sin is what brings the devil. If they don't repent and confess, the sin won't go away, and consequently neither will the devil.
-Elder, are the demon-possessed helped by exorcisms?
-It depends. Exorcisms help, when they are read over a little child that is possessed, which has not given any rights itself (to the devil) and has no idea about confession; or, when they are read over an adult who has lost his mind and is unable to confess. When a possessed person's senses are intact, he must first be helped to discover what he did to bring on the demon possession; he must repent, confess, and then - if necessary - exorcisms can be read over him - because even with only the blessing of absolution (during Confession), the demon can be driven out.
Some priests put together both those who are demon-possessed and others who have a certain disability and they read exorcisms over all of them. One of them had Parkinson's and yet, they were reading exorcisms over him... Even today, they brought an elderly man whom they claimed was demonically possessed. His left arm moved to and fro, and he also suffered fits. "How long have you been like that?" I asked him. "Since I was a child" he replied. I was stumped. I then noticed that the left side of his head was slightly compressed. Most likely something happened at birth, which later gave him problems. Imagine, having personal woes and others telling him he is demon-possessed and reading exorcisms over him: "depart, you unclean spirit..." and making him a laughing-stock to the world! Unacceptable! How many children that are regarded as possessed when they aren't! They brought a youngster - twenty-five years old - whom they said was possessed. I gave him some holy water to drink and the poor lad didn't react against it in the least. "What does the lad do?" I asked the father. "When did this happen to him?" "Since he was six" he replied. "They had brought his dead grandfather to our shop and as soon as the boy saw him, he was shocked." The poor boy had suffered a nervous breakdown....I mean, this could happen to an adult - how much more so to a child? Imagine, claiming it to be demon-possessed!
-Elder, can exorcisms be read silently?
-It is better if they are read inside us. Basically, exorcisms should be read with pain, with humility, not with pride. When priests proudly and vocally utter the words "depart, you unclean spirit!", the devil becomes infuriated, angry... he then exploits the possessed person's ego and might probably say to him "just look at how this priest is making you look ridiculous! You should beat him up!"... So the possessed person pounces on the priest. That won't dispose of the demon. It will dispose of the priest, along with his book of exorcisms. Once, there was a priest who shouted out to a possessed person "I COMMAND YOU, unclean spirit, to depart from this man!" only to hear the demon reply - through the possessed person's mouth - "which is why I won't depart!" That's why I tell priests - when reading exorcisms - to never shout out the words "depart, unclean spirit".... as if the demons are deaf!
But, there is also no need for the relatives of the possessed person to tell others that they intend to invite a priest to read exorcisms. It would be better to tell them that the priest will be reading a Paraklesis (supplication), and let him read the exorcisms silently.
To tell the truth, the demon-possessed are terribly tormented because they not only are humiliated but are also tortured by the devil! I had met a young lad of twenty-three at the Stavronikitas Monastery, who was demon-possessed. He was all skin and bones. It was freezing cold outside, inside the church a wood stove was burning, and yet he was wearing a flimsy, short-sleeved shirt and was seated at the rear of the church. I couldn't bear to see him like that, so I went and gave him a woolen garment to put on. "Put this on" - I told him - "aren't you cold?" "What cold, father?" he replied. "I'm burning up". Well, that's exactly what hell is.
In fact, in certain possessed people who by nature are sensitive, the little imp tells them that they won't be saved, and it leads them to suicide. How terrible! This is no mere matter! I once knew a demon-possessed man who had become a nuisance, even to the priests. He would go to them to have exorcisms read, and they would send him away. Then the devil would tell him about me also: "Don't go to him too - he won't accept you either" and this had made him fall into despair. Another case was of a person who had recovered by the grace of Saint Arsenius. Look what the devil did to him! He had come here to venerate the Relics of Saint Arsenius, but the Monastery was closed. So the devil appeared to him in the form of Saint Arsenius at the door downstairs and said to him: "Don't ever set foot here again - I don't want you, and neither does Paisios!" And he sent him away. See what happened? That man then began to spout abuse about the Saint, and also about me.... OK, I deserve abuse, but the Saint? Anyway, the poor wretch became demon-possessed all over again. Needless to say, if one merely behaves disrespectfully, God's Grace becomes distant; imagine how much more so, when Saints are abused. He also came to my Hut and shouted "What have I done to you, so that you don't want to see me? Why won't you help me? Do you want me to be tormented?" So I said to him: "Dear man, it was the devil that sent you away; it wasn't the Saint. The Saint doesn't send anyone away." But he wouldn't listen. He had more faith in his own conviction. Have you any idea what kind of torture these people suffer every day?
But there are many demon-possessed people who suffer in order for certain others to come to their senses. Because, when they see just how much they suffer, they become concerned, they come to a realization and repent. So, don't imagine that those who become possessed are the only ones with more sins. It's just that God allows them to be possessed, in which case, they are degraded, they are humbled, they pay for their sins, they receive wages, but on the other hand, others who see them suffer are also helped.
Of course one might say that there are people who commit a whole pile of sins and don't become demon-possessed; how can this be? Well, when a person has reached the point of total corruption, then he is not attacked by a demon, because God can see that he won't be helped. We need to know that even an offensive by a demonic energy is - in a fashion - a gift of God to a sinning person, so that he might be humbled, repent and be saved.
Notes for Chapter 2:
1.See Luke 8:26 etc.
3. A Roman military unit comprised of three to six thousand soldiers.
4. The Elder used to say that the psychopath needs medical help by a good and faithful psychiatrist and the spiritual help of a spiritual father, whereas the demon-possessed who has his wits about him needs to discover what he has done that brought on the possession, then repent and confess in order to be rid of the demon.
5. He meant the devil.
6. The Elder was referring to the subliminal messages on discs with hidden messages recorded in reverse.
7. He is commemorated on the 7th of February.
8. See the book "Hagiorite Fathers and Hagiorite Themes" by the Elder Paisios the Hagiorite, pages 96-97.
Chapter 3 - The terrible delusion
-Elder, I am afraid of delusion.
-So you should. Whoever is afraid of delusion will not be deluded, because they are careful and they deposit their every thought - they hide nothing and are thus helped.
-Elder, what is a predisposition for delusion?
-The predisposition for delusion is to imagine that you are something special and showing others that you are achieving something. It is to imagine that you have reached spiritual heights because - for example - you have accomplished an ascetic feat (when the others have not yet perceived the meaning of spiritual life) and then behave arrogantly. It is when you force yourself egotistically during ascesis in order to attain the measure of a Saint so that others might admire you: that is the beginning of delusion. Violence is one thing and force is another. I told someone once "Take care that you don't become deluded, with those tactics of yours; it won't be to your benefit." "Me, deluded?" he replied. "I even abstain from meat." But he didn't go to confession either. He used to disclose his sins to an Icon. "What are you? Orthodox or a Protestant?" I said to him. "Where did you find that in writing?" "Why?" re retorted. "Can't Christ hear me?" What a remark!
-Elder, does physical ascesis help in the struggle against one's passions?
-If it is implemented for that purpose, it helps. The body is humbled, and the flesh becomes subservient to the spirit. But "dry" ascesis(1) will give rise to illusions, because it cultivates passions of the soul, it bloats one's pride, it increases one's self-confidence and will lead to delusion. Thus, one is able to reach various conclusions about their spiritual progress, by the "dry ascesis" that was implemented. "I achieved this and that, whereas so-and-so has fallen short; I reached the heights of Saint so-and-so, and have even surpassed the other Saint..." - and all this, accompanied by fasts and night-vigils. But it is all futile, because it was not pursued for the purpose of excising one's passions, but only for satisfying oneself egotistically. I had met a monk who lived ascetically out of pride, and whose conscience told him that he was a great ascetic. He had become a total wreck; he didn't eat, he didn't even wash - he was wallowing in filth... his clothes had frayed on account of the grime on them.. I tried to wash them, but what could you possibly wash? They had rotted. One time he even said to me: "I have surpassed Saint John the Kalyvite." "What are you talking about? Did Saint John become a saint through grime?" I exclaimed. A few days later when he visited me again, he said "I have also surpassed Saint Maximus the Hut-burner". "What do you mean, you surpassed him?" I asked. "Well, I have made the rounds of the entire Holy Mountain like a whirlwind!" "You poor fool," I replied; "Saint Maximus had become de-materialized and could fly; he didn't rush around like you..." After some time, he began to implement the "remembrance of death" and would think to himself "Now I am in Hell". Even later, supposedly humbling himself, he began to say "Now I am a devil... Satan...and I will be going to gather followers...", after which, he ended up deluded.
-Elder, you have said that during the hour of prayer we should avoid bringing to mind various images from the life of Christ etc... Why?
-So that the devil won't seduce us with imaginings. Imagination is a good thing, it is a powerful thing, provided it is utilized properly. For example, certain people can see a landscape right now, and after one year, remember it exactly as they had seen it and draw it. That is a talent that God gives to man, but one also that the devil will exploit. Those who are deluded will imagine whatever they see or read in the manner that they want, and then, they believe that those imaginings are reality. To help such cases, there must be constant supervision of the poor souls, because the devil deceives them continuously. Which is why - if a person has imagination by nature - there should be some concern when they tell him that he isn't thinking properly and that he should place question marks on his thoughts. I had met a simple woman, who prayed continuously and beseeched Christ to allow her to see Him in this lifetime, since (she claimed) she would not see Him in the other life. Christ indeed appeared to her during the moment of Holy Communion, inside the Holy Chalice, in the form of an infant, with bloodied hair, and then He disappeared so she was able to receive Communion. But, after this incident, the enemy began to besiege her with the thought that she was something special. From that moment on, the devil worked on her imagination and kept presenting movie scenes to her. When I went out to the world at one time, I had found her in a house and had heard all the fantasies that she was telling the men and women who had gathered there. It was all I could do, trying to set her straight. The only solution was to give her an earful in front of everyone, so that her delusions would be exposed and she be humbled.
-They were her imaginings only?
-Imagination and delusion
-Elder, didn't she tell her spiritual father all those things?
-You know what happens? Satan fools them with the things they "see"; they show no concern whatsoever, so it doesn't occur to them that they should speak to their spiritual father... What an artist the devil is! Horrible!
If one isn't careful with their imagination, temptation can exploit even the simplest, natural phenomenon and mislead them. At the Stomiou Monastery, while reading Vespers during winter, I would light the wood stove. The women who occasionally came up to the monastery had noticed that the Icon of the Holy Mother on the iconostasis used to creak during Vespers (something that I hadn't noticed) and the one would say to the other "Whenever the monk reads Vespers, the Holy Mother's Icon goes 'crack-crack-crack'..." When I learnt of this, I said: "Let's take a look at the icon that goes 'crack-crack-crack'..." It's not that I don't believe in divine phenomena; I believe that the Holy Mother will appear and will speak and be visible to those who are in a spiritual state, but caution is advised. So I got up on a chair to take a closer look at the icon. What was happening? Well, the icon was an old one, and it had an embedded cross-beam (2). When the wood stove was lit, the beam would heat up and begin to creak as it expanded. I nailed it down and the creaking sounds stopped. I then asked the women: "Can you hear anything now?" "No", they replied. "Well then, don't pay attention to such things". Things like these need caution, because if imagination is gradually cultivated, man's entire life goes to waste.
-Elder, how does one understand if an event is actually from God or if it's from the devil?
-You can tell. If it's not from God, the devil will instill thoughts of arrogance. What's more, whatever the devil does is clumsy: he goes to extremes. Once there came a deluded and demon-possessed man to my Hut. I told him several things and helped him out. Do you know what he said? "This is the first time I've heard such things! I haven't read anything like that, even in the Gospel!" In other words, it was as though he was saying: "You spoke even better than Christ". Do you understand what the devil does, in order to bring on an arrogant thought? Finally, if a person doesn't realize that he alone can do nothing, but that everything he does, he does with the power of Christ, then even if he can drive out a thousand demons from a demon-possessed person, he still won't be helped.
The devil can appear as an angel of light
Whoever has not felt that superior joy, the heavenly kind - that is, if he doesn't have any spiritual experiences - then he can easily be deluded if he isn't careful. The devil is cunning. He arouses a person's heart a little and makes him feel pleasure, and thus deludes him by giving him the impression that that pleasure is spiritual, or divine. He steals the heart and man thinks he is doing fine. "I didn't feel at all disturbed" he will say... Yes, perhaps, but what you felt was not the true, the spiritual joy. Spiritual joy is a heavenly thing...
The devil can appear either as an angel or as a saint. The demon camouflaged as an angel or a saint will propagate disturbance (which is what he possesses), whereas a true Angel or Saint will always propagate a paradisiacal joy and a heavenly exuberance. The humble and clean person - even if inexperienced - can discern between an Angel that is from God and a demon that appears as an angel of light, because he is spiritually "clean" and more closely related to the Angel. The egotist and carnal person will however be deluded easily by the cunning devil. When the devil appears as an angel of light and the person forms a humble thought, the devil will vanish. One evening at the Stomiou Monastery after Vespers, I was saying the Prayer in my cell, seated on a stool. For a moment there, I heard the sounds of musical instruments coming from a building nearby which was built for visitors. I was puzzled! "What musical instruments are they, that can be heard so close by?" I wondered. The feast-day's celebration was over. So I got up from my stool and went to the window to see what was going on outside. Stillness everywhere. That's when it occurred to me that it was an act by temptation, to interrupt my prayer. So I turned around and continued my praying. Suddenly, a blinding light flooded my cell. The ceiling vanished, the roof split open and a column of light appeared, which reached the sky. At the top of this luminous column I could see the face of a blonde-haired young man with long hair and a beard, who looked like Christ. Given that I could only see only half of his face, I got up from the stool so I could see it fully. Then I heard a voice inside me saying "You have become worthy of seeing Christ". "And who am I, the unworthy one, who has become worthy of seeing Christ?" I said to myself, and I immediately made the sign of the Cross. The blinding light and the imaginary Christ vanished in an instant, and I could see that the ceiling was still in place.
If a person doesn't have his head screwed on tightly, the wicked one can plant thoughts of arrogance and lure him with fantasies and false lights - which wouldn't lift him up to heaven, but rather dash him down into chaos. That's why one shouldn't ask for lights or divine charismas etc., but for repentance. Repentance will bring humility and then the Good Lord will provide whatever that person needs. When I was at Sinai, at Saint Episteme's ascetic cell, the cunning little imp offered to... assist me! The cell had 3-4 steps. At night, when there was enough starlight, I would go to the caves and, in order to descend those steps, I would use a flint lighter. One time, when I tried striking it to light up, it wouldn't work. In an instant, I saw a bright light coming from a nearby rock, beaming down like a strong searchlight - pow! And how it lit up everything around! "Hmm.... I can do without this kind of lighting" I said, and turned back. The light vanished instantly. Oh that cunning devil - he didn't want me to light my way with my lighter so I could go down those steps! He was saying "Isn't it a shame, putting himself to so much trouble? Let me give him light!" How thoughtful of the devil!
-Elder, how did you understand that the lights weren't from God?
-Oh, it's very evident. Awesome!
-Elder, I am being plagued by some really ugly dreams…
-When you see a bad dream, never examine what you have seen, how you saw it, or whether you are guilt-ridden, or at fault. The wily one - if he couldn't harm you by day - will come by night. Sometimes, God will allow it to approach us in our sleep. in order for us to realize that the "old person" inside us has not yet died. At other times, the enemy approaches a person in his sleep and presents various dreams to him in order to get him worried when he wakes up. That's why you shouldn't pay any attention whatsoever to dreams; just make the sign of the Cross, cross yourself and your pillow, and you can also place a Cross and one or two icons on your pillow and say your prayer until you fall asleep. The more you pay attention to dreams, the more the enemy will come and bother you. This is not something that happens to adults only; it can also happen to children. With young children - even they are little angels - the enemy goes and scares them when they are asleep, and they are jerked out of their sleep in agony, and they run, terrified and in tears, into their mother's arms. They can also be approached by Angels, so you can see them laughing joyfully in their sleep - or they awake, out of an immense joy. Subsequently, the dreams that are brought on by temptation are an external influence of the enemy on man, while he is asleep.
-And what about when you feel something is weighing you down in your sleep, Elder?
-Sometimes, it can be attributed to an agonizing situation that one has experienced by day, or to various fears, various suspicions etc.. Of course all these can be utilized by the little imp - it can make combinations in order to confuse the person. Quite often, sleep can be so light, that one might believe they're awake and praying in order for that weight to be lifted - which can even cause them to hold their breath. In fact, the devil can even take on the form of a person or a Saint an present himself in a person's dream. Once, the devil appeared to a patient in his sleep, in the form of Saint Arsenius, saying to him: "I am Saint Arsenius. I came to tell you that you will die. Do you hear? You will die." The man was scared out of his wits. A Saint never speaks to a sick person in such a manner! Even if the sick person is to die and a Saint appears in order to inform him of his death, he will inform him in a gentler manner: "God has seen your suffering, and that is why He will take you away from this world. You should prepare yourself." A Saint would never say "Do you hear? You will die!"
-And what about when someone is shouting in his sleep, Elder?
-It's better if he does; because then he will wake up... Many dreams have to do with one's agony. When a person agonizes or is very tired, those things struggle inside him and he sees them in dreams. Even I, quite often, when I encounter various problems during my meetings with people (injustices etc, that have taken place), I will then see myself arguing with the other person in my sleep: "You fool!"... I would shout... "you are insensitive!" and with all that shouting I wake myself up.
-Elder, can one foresee something that will happen to him - from his dreams?
-No. Do not pay attention to your dreams. Regardless if they are pleasant or unpleasant, one should not believe them, because there is the danger of being deluded. Ninety-five percent of dreams are deceptive. That's why the Holy Fathers say that we shouldn't pay attention to them. Very few dreams are from God; but even then, for someone to interpret them they must be pure of heart and have other prerequisites - like Joseph(3) and Daniel, who had God-given charismas. "I will tell you" Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar "both the dream that you saw, as well as what it signifies."(4). But note what state he had attained! He was among lions and even though they were hungry, they didn't touch him (5). Habakkuk took food to him, and he remarked "Did God remember me?"(6). If God didn't have the Prophet Daniel in mind, who else would He keep in mind?
-Elder, some people don't have dreams...
-So much the better! They won't need to spend money on tickets or fuel! In dreams, you see something in one minute that would take hours in reality, because Time is eliminated. And that is how one can understand the words of the Psalm: "...because a thousand years in Your sight, Lord, are like the day of yesterday that passed." (7).
-Elder, when people narrate their visions to us or tell us that they saw a Saint etc., what should we say to them?
-It is better if you tell them to be cautious. That is the surest thing, because not everyone can discern if a vision is from God or from the devil. But, even if a vision is from God, one must not accept it straight away. In fact, God is moved -so to speak- when He sees His creature not accepting it, because that shows the person has humility. If it was truly a Saint that appeared, God knows other ways of informing that soul accordingly, and leading it to where He wants. Care must be taken, because the little imp can come along, press the button and "turn on the TV entertainment"...
There was this soul, which hadn't been helped by people and as such, was entitled to assistance (divine assistance). God presented something to her, to help her. But afterwards, the devil planted thoughts in her: "For God to have made you worthy of seeing that vision, it looks like He is has something loftier in store for you." From the moment she believed a remark like that, the devil began to do his job and rendered her under his command! But God eventually showed pity on her once again. She saw a vision and heard a voice saying to her "Write to father Paisios all the visions you have seen." So she wrote me a letter with all the visions she had seen. The cunning one had wreaked havoc in her. They were actual visions, but she mentioned that only the first and the last were from God. The last vision was permitted by God, so that she might be helped to straighten out, and be rid of the delusion. Finally, the poor woman heeded my advice and got out of that mess.
-Elder, how can one tell if someone is deluded?
-You can tell, even by his appearance. The deluded person has a fake and outwardly emotionless appearance. He seems humble and meek, but deep inside, he harbors the big idea that he has of himself. If you look into his eyes, you will see that he regards other poor souls as ants. But you can also tell what he is, by the things he says. There was this deluded person, who was regarded by many people as a saint. He would tell them that Christ had appeared before him astride a horse, holding a flask of wine; that Christ offered him a drink from that flask, and that from that very moment, he received the charisma of foresight. One time, when he was talking to people, someone asked him "Why can't I perform miracles also?" "Because you committed this sin, and that sin...." he replied. The poor man panicked, and he came to tell me about it. "Oh, come on" I said to him "since when do Saints resort to such theatrics? Only the devil does. Couldn't you tell that it was the devil speaking? And even if what the deluded one said was true, again, it was the devil who was disclosing it."
A woman once told me that they had taken a demon-possessed woman to someone who was rumored as being able to drive out demons etc. He took them to a ruined chapel in the countryside. As soon as they entered the chapel, he took a stole and put it on. The woman was taken aback! A lay person, putting on a priest's stole? "Are you a priest?" she asked him. "What priests are you talking about?" he exclaimed, and began to slander priests in general. That's how those poor people realized he was deluded, and they got up and left immediately.
-Elder, is a deluded person also insane?
-Not always. Delusion is one thing, and insanity is another. Some people are only deluded, however there are other cases where they become deluded but their mind is harmed as well. I had met a monk at the Holy Mountain who wouldn’t listen to anyone. He had abandoned his monastery and wandered all over the Holy Mountain. Four or five times he had gone supposedly to become a recluse, but I advised him to return to his “place of repentance”(8) . Eventually he acquired his own Hut(9) and lived there all alone. After seven months, he came and found me. “You should go back to your monastery” I said to him. “I was dismissed by the monastery; they won’t accept me there” he replied. “Be careful; be very careful” I warned him. “At least find yourself an Elder and do obedience to him, instead of following your own will.” “I will do obedience to God’s will” he replied. Again, I said “Get up and go to a monastery.” “Me, A hermit now, go back? You go back!” he said. “Me, alone?” I replied; “If you want me to come with you, I will do so, with all my heart.” “Listen here” he said, “if you are bored with solitude and you want to go to a monastery, then you should go.” When I saw the way he behaved, with such impudence, I left him alone. After a while I learnt that he had become demon-possessed, but also went mad. The devil had appeared to him in the form of the Holy Mother and had said to him “My child, if you prostrate yourself and worship me, I will bestow you with the seven charismas of the Holy Spirit…” So he thought to himself “I will obtain those charismas now, and will surpass everyone else”, so he dropped down and worshipped the vision. As soon as he prostrated himself, the devil shook him violently and he became possessed. But with the shaking that the devil caused him, he also lost his mind. He went to the Holy Community (10) seeking to become Head Overseer! He locked up the Fathers who were in the room, took the Head Overseer’s Staff and walked proud as a peacock down the stairs! The others outside suddenly beheld a different Head Overseer coming downstairs! They cautiously took a vehicle and followed him, and a little further down the road, they picked him up and took him to the psychiatric hospital. The demon is now subdued, but the madness still remains…
-And what about a deluded person, Elder – isn’t he also demon-possessed in some way?
-Well of course he is! What else could he be? In fact a deluded person may well have more demons than a possessed person. But still, delusion is one thing and madness is another.
There are two or three spiritual fathers who are partly pious, partly damaged, and who cause confusion to people: they “diagnose” everyone as demon-possessed and they won’t listen to anyone’s opinion. “I’m a priest” they claim; “I have authority!” If you happen to hear of such cases, you should make others cautious because such priests do harm to the Church, so you should say to them: “Go and find a proper spiritual father, if you want to get help.” They even reach the point of using my name – even a photo of me – to give people the impression that they communicate with me. Cases like these have “extenuating circumstances”, because they are merely naïve deep down. However there are other, malignant cases who will present vinegar as wine. One such case was a man who used to be an accountant working somewhere, but now he goes around northern Greece and presents himself as being my spiritual underling. He claims that I had given him the gift of insight and four or five other charismas, and he now deceives people and amasses money.
-Is he a clergyman?
-No, he is a lay person. He saw me one time at Daphne (Holy Mountain location) and hid himself so that I wouldn’t spot him, because he is such a…. genuine underling of mine! Fortunately, he drinks and he smells of ouzo, so people notice that he is tipsy and they are quite cautious when around him. So many such frauds exist, who exploit people’s pain and make a profit from it! There was one such case who told a widow “your late husband’s one arm has not yet deteriorated, because his soul is in need of prayer.” “What am I to do now?” thought the poor distraught woman. “I might as well give him money, to pray for my husband’s soul.” After extracting a large amount of money from her, he later said: “Well, we have avoided the first danger… he is somewhat better now…” So, by giving-giving-giving him money, he ended up with half of her fortune, just so that her husband would find repose!
There are also certain deluded ones who sign sick people with the sign of the Cross and mumble something under their breath, supposedly to make them better. People are fooled and they won’t go to confession, or bring a priest over to perform a Holy Unction or read a blessing over them, but instead go to individuals like that. And in the meantime they also give up a whole lot of money. I was told that in a village there were two such deluded individuals, who were ideal collaborators! The devil would bring on –say- a severe headache, or would generate a bout of sciatica to someone, and he would go to one of the two deluded characters and say “Son-and-so has a powerful headache for such-and-such a reason.” With that opportunity, the deluded one would say to his compatriot “I know the reason for the headache” and would reveal the cause immediately. “Wow! What a revelation!” the villager would exclaim; “so, what should I do now, for the headache to go away?” “You should go to so-and-so” he would say, and direct him to the other deluded character in the village. See what the devil concocted, to preserve people in their delusion? He made two deluded people collaborators – one who made the diagnosis and the other supposedly was the healer – thus keeping people away from the Church…
-Elder, why do people often resort to deluded people for their problems?
-Because the devil’s charismas are cheap and easy to obtain. The things that people ask of them are not difficult, and their passions are also satisfied. Instead of repenting for their sins – which they commit as human beings – and going to a spiritual father to confess, they go and find deluded ones – that is, the devil – and essentially ask him to solve their problem. Then they end up being tormented and don’t realize that the devil has bound them and controls them.
-And how do they come to believe them?
-People are confused. There are so many who claim to lead people to the correct path, when they themselves are in fact carrying a sack over their shoulder, with the devil hidden inside it! The Good Lord however does not allow him to be hidden completely. Sometimes the devil shows a horn or his tail, people notice, and they cry out in fear “What is that? A horn? A tail?” “No! What are you saying? It’s just the... stem of an eggplant!” they will say, in an attempt to fool them and present diabolical things as good and beneficial.
Someone had come here once, together with companions. He was deluded. He had around thirteen others with him and he pretended he was an Elder. So I asked them: “Do you all belong to an organization?” They didn’t reply. “A club?” They wouldn’t reply. “Do you have any spiritual father?” No reply. They began to prostrate themselves before me… you see, he had brought them there on purpose, so that he could later say “we also went to father Paisios, and he agreed with us”! Understand? I shouldn’t have witnessed that scene, because they exploited it afterwards. That guy looked suspicious. His followers appeared misled; the poor souls actually fell down on their knees!
-Did you say anything to them, Elder?
-I did, but as they departed, the cunning one told them otherwise… he drags people back and forth and brings them back onto his path again…
-How can one protect himself from deluded people, Elder?
-By remaining inside the shelter of our Church. Of course, if one were to follow a deluded person out of ignorance, God will not abandon him. He will help him see the error of his ways and bring him back to the truth.
-Elder, what will help someone who has deluded notions to recover his senses?
-He must become aware of his wretched state; he must not give any credibility at all to his own thoughts, and must reveal all his musings to his spiritual father and do obedience to whatever he advises. He should constantly ask God for His mercy, so that Divine Grace may come again. In other words, he needs to humble himself in order to recover and be saved. You see, the judgments, the wills of God are an abyss…my word.. His love has no boundaries! There was one person who used to come to the Hut frequently, and always had deluded notions. So many things I’d tell him, but to no avail… He would take everything the wrong way. Whenever he left the Holy Mountain, he would go around giving sermons and he caused a lot of harm. He would say he received instructions from me, and confused people. Even some books that I had given him as a blessing - he presented those so that people would believe that he sought my counsel. One day, as he was saying various things, divine grace abandoned him completely, and he began to grievously insult Christ and the Holy Mother, upon which, the people became suspicious and scattered. They afterwards took him away with a van and locked him up in a psychiatric facility. That’s how far God’s love will go: He will allow His name to be blasphemed, provided His creatures are helped and rescued!
-Elder, if a deluded person acknowledges his delusion and repents, will his followers also repent?
-If he has repented sincerely, he must humble himself and tell them that he erred, and then bring them back on the correct path. But if the deceits of a deluded person are revealed and he himself remains in his delusion, then his followers need to be properly alerted. Given that some deluded people may even act inside the Church, there is the risk that if their followers suddenly discover that everything they said was delusions they will be scandalized and uproot themselves from the Church…
Notes for Chapter 3
1.The Elder characterizes as “dry” any ascesis that is an end in itself and not used as a means to cleanse his heart and attain in-Christ perfection.
2.A small, lengthwise board which is inserted in a groove at the rear of a larger piece of wood so that it doesn’t warp.
3.See Genesis 37, 5-11.
4.See Daniel 2, 25-46.
5.See Daniel 6,16
6.See Daniel – Bel and the Dragon, 34-38.
8.At the monastery where he was tonsured a monk.
9.An edifice which includes 2-3 cells and a tiny chapel and belongs to one of the 2- Monasteries of the Holy Mountain.
10.The building at Karyes, the “capital” of Athos, where the “Holy Community” (the administrative instrument of the Holy Mountain) is based, consisting of 20 members-representatives of the 20 Monasteries who are elected each year
-Elder, the things that are said by those who go over to the Pentecostals – that is, about seeing visions, speaking in tongues etc. – are those things from their own imagination, or from demonic influences?
-They are energies of demonic influences; because when they go over to the Pentecostals and are re-baptized, they are actually disregarding, denying the Holy Baptism : “I confess one Baptism, in absolution of sins…” as the Creed declares – in which case, they un-baptize themselves and become susceptible to demonic influences and then they … jabber-jabber, supposedly in tongues. “It is the Holy Spirit of the Pentecost talking” they tell us. But it is not the Holy Spirit; it is a whole mess of unclean spirits. What tongues? They are merely uttering gibberish, which not even they can comprehend. They even record that gibberish and then produce statistics and reach conclusions: “That tongue has so many ‘hallelujahs’ in it, and there are so many in the other tongue…” Well, it’s to be expected, among so much jabber-jabber, you will surely hear something that resembles the word ‘hallelujah’ in one of the languages of the world! And so you can see, while it is something demonic, they actually believe that demonism to be the energy of the Holy Spirit, and that they are supposedly experiencing what the Apostles had experienced on the day of the Pentecost! Blasphemies are the things they believe, which is why they become demon-possessed.
-Elder, why are they re-baptized?
-Because they claim: “When I was baptized, I was young and didn’t know; now I am baptized and fully aware.” They are re-baptized, and thus justify their sins. If the Church didn’t have infant Baptism, what would happen to infants in case of death before their Baptism? That is why a godparent becomes the child’s guarantor and recites the Creed and bears responsibility for the child until it is of age. Is the child treated unfairly, simply for being Baptized young? No; on the contrary it is helped because it receives Holy Communion. And when the child has grown up and is baptized, even if any sin is committed, there is always repentance and confession, which can wash away that sin – not by going to be baptized again!
-Elder, they say that the fire-walkers on the feast-day of Saint Constantine trample across a patch of glowing coals on the ground and yet they don't suffer any burns. What is that about?
-It is both demonic and a deception. The fact that they dance holding an icon or the Cross is impudence on their part – it is a denial of faith. The grace of God withdraws from them, which is why the devil assists them. Is it possible for the devil to not help them, after such behaviour? No; they are entitled to receive his help! But - it is also their own cunning that helps. They go beforehand to prepare the spot; in other words, they burn wood taken from plane trees - wood that leaves a lot of ash behind - and they also know where they tread, when they dance. Why don’t they choose wood that will retain the burning embers? Let someone else prepare the fire, and THEN let them go there and dance on it!
Someone once said to me: “It’s a miracle! The fire-walkers are standing on the fire and aren’t being burnt!” “Is that what you’re admiring?” I replied; “demons have been standing inside the fires of hell for entire centuries and haven’t been burnt; That’s what you should be admiring, and not these people here, who are treading lightly over some coals and ashes without being burnt…”
-Elder, how can people – even educated people – believe in reincarnation?
-Reincarnation “accommodates” certain people – especially the atheists, the unbelievers. This is the devil’s greatest trick. The devil keeps them living the life of sin, by inspiring the thought that the soul comes back again and again in this world. “Eh, even if you don’t succeed this time around (says the devil), you will come back to life and succeed the next time; and if again you don’t succeed, you will again come back, again and again… you will evolve…”! So those people say to themselves “It doesn’t matter if I commit this sin also…” and they throw caution to the wind; they live carelessly, they don’t repent. See how the devil blinds them, and gets them hooked in hell? I have never seen bigger cunning and artfulness by the devil, for the purpose of getting people into hell! And if the devil gets his hooks into you once, do you think he will let you turn back? This is the worst theory of all the Hinduist theories.
Late one afternoon, a young man came by the Hut. “You know, around this time of day, I normally read Vespers” I told him. “Do you still preoccupy yourself with those things?” he said, and walked off. The next day he came around again and told me about his visions. “Did you smoke hash before?” I asked him. “I used to. Yes. But when I saw the visions, I hadn’t smoked any.” “Did you perhaps read anything about reincarnation?” “Yes” he replied. Well, that’s where he was snagged. He had read about reincarnation, egotism entered the scene and it fashioned dreams that thousands of years ago, he was an important man, and wealthy! Then he saw in another vision that he went up to heaven but he wasn’t listed there, so he was told to go back down. The devil created that condition in him. So I remarked: “All of this is just fairytales, and you actually believe it?”
And unfortunately there are even educated people who believe in such foolishness. There was a donkey near the Hut which they had named Nasser, because he was such a frisky animal. One day, a Greek man who lived in Switzerland came to visit, and he heard me calling out to the donkey with the name Nasser. When he came to visit again after some time, he brought with him a box of plain sweets and another box with special sweets. “These are for you” he said, handing me the plain sweets. “These special sweets are for Nasser” he said. “I recognized him from the last time I visited that it was Nasser. When I went up to the donkey, it looked at me with a sad gaze that broke my heart”! He actually believed that Nasser (of Egypt) was reincarnated and had become a donkey! He actually believed it! “Are you out of your mind?” I said to the man. “I named the donkey Nasser because it was such a lively creature!” But the man simply couldn’t be convinced.
And that’s nothing! Let me tell you of another incident: Years ago, some Germans went to Crete to perform a memorial service for the Germans who were killed during the Occupation in Greece. During the service, a Cretan local passed by with his donkey that was laden with his goods. When the donkey spotted all the people gathered there, he began to bray. One of the Germans thought that the donkey was his brother who had been killed in the war and was reincarnated! Apparently the donkey had recognized him and was greeting him with its braying! The German stood at attention, and – snap! – greeted it in military fashion!... He then broke into tears!... so, he immediately went over to the Cretan and said to him: “How much do you want, so I can buy it?” “Get lost!” the Cretan replied… But the German was counting his money: “This much? This much?” “Go away, leave me alone” the Cretan kept saying. Finally, another local said: “You moron, he’s paying you the value of a Mercedes for the donkey – just give it to him!” So the Cretan unloaded the donkey, removed its saddle, set it free, and the German took it with tears in his eyes, and brought it back to Germany with him!
-It’s a fact! If I hadn’t heard it from a reliable witness, I wouldn’t have believed it either.
-Elder, do Hinduists achieve a certain self-control because they are helped by the severe ascesis that they perform through yoga?
-They strive and they strive, and what do they achieve with it? Orthodox self-restraint and spiritual ascesis in general always aspire to a loftier spiritual purpose: the sanctification of the soul. Their satanic, worldly ascesis is only implemented to give them a flexible body so that they can contort arms and legs like a paper puppet, and so that other foolish people might admire them and the silly demons can ridicule them. From early childhood they learn to twist their legs and place the one leg over one shoulder and the other leg over the other shoulder, and that’s how they “pray”. They practice by punching their fist for many hours against a sack of gravel, and then they are enabled to break stones, wood etc.
But, even all the things they say that they feel have an explanation. For instance, they drag their tongue until it touches their nose or they suck it in until it touches their throat, and this causes an aggravation, the feel a certain sweetness – a tickling – and they say “This is nectar’… Then they press down on certain nerves near their ears and they hear a “hummmmm” sound like music. Or they press their eyes and this makes them see little stars! They sit staring at the sun with eyes wide open and when they close them, they can see light! “There! We did it! We saw uncreated light!” So the devil says: “Oh, so you want lights? Let me give you lights!” and he then cultivates their imagination so that afterwards, without pressing their eyes or holding them open to the sun, they will be able to see lights. The devil often tries to seduce us without being provoked, by presenting lights etc., but we turn our backs to him, so just imagine what would happened if we provoked him! All he needs is an excuse to act!
-In other words Elder, the devil presents them with various images?
-Yes. He cultivates their imagination to a large degree and then he leads them to delusion. Some of our own people go the Indians, the Indians teach them to utter some vile remarks in their language about Christ, about the Holy Mother, about the saints – unbeknownst to them – and they become demon-possessed. Then they begin to utter all sorts of ineffable words. They reach a wild state and others who observe them think that they are in a spiritual state! But it is a demonic state…
The Indians, while an intelligent people, while having metaphysical concerns and lots of heart, preoccupy themselves with supposed philosophy, with delusions and with sorceries. They wreak havoc among Europeans with their theories. And you can see how their leaders are as fit as bulls, while the others in India are dying of hunger! They come to Greece also, and they fool people with nirvana, with laziness, with reincarnations… meantime in their books they even use quotes from the Holy Bible, from the Philokalia, from the Fathers, and thus attract people. In olden times, the Orthodox would in no way believe in Hinduist theories! Now - how can one say it – there are even some very correct people who support such nonsense and who give a whole lot of money. Hinduism has caused severe damage…
-Elder, are there any Indians who are Orthodox Christians?
-Very few. There were a few who remained from the Church that the Apostle Thomas had established, but they were abandoned. Others became (Roman) Catholics, others Protestants. Today, the Orthodox there are very few.
The things that other religions or para-religions present as miracles have nothing in common with the miracles of our Faith. Christ wants us to be honorable; He doesn’t want us to love Him because He is omnipotent. If He wanted, He could work a miracle and make the whole world believe instantly. But that way, He would be confining man’s freedom. That is why He said “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed”. (4)
Orthodoxy has the miracle and divine grace. Hinduism has magic and philosophy. It replaces the miracle with magic, and divine Grace with philosophy. The devil gives powers to the gurus, the sorcerers etc., because they have given the devil the right. That’s why they can perform supposed miracles, and the others who see them admire them. From the moment someone realizes that the one performing such fake miracles is in no way related to Christ, he must understand that whatever he does is a deception of the devil, who is never able to say the truth but instead lies and deceives God’s creatures. Those who have a positive predisposition – after having become a little bit familiar with Orthodoxy – are somewhat hesitant, because they can see that the life of such sorcerers isn’t a clean one; it is a mixed-up one, whereas in Orthodoxy they will find a clean life and a superiority. They find people who possess sanctity and who perform true miracles.
In Orthodoxy, kindness is the overflowing of man’s love, for God and for one’s neighbour. All the kindnesses that are displayed by persons of other religions or by deluded persons etc., do not contain any in-Christ elements, although they may have certain positive human elements. Whoever lives the Orthodox life correctly has humility, love, and he gives himself wholly to the other – he sacrifices himself. And the ascesis, the fasting and the night-vigils that he pursues are again out of love for the Lord, and not so that he might get some kind of pleasure out of it.
Christ came into the world to be crucified out of love for His creature. First He was crucified, and then he was resurrected. It is a cheap thing, for one to merely ask for spiritual favours; it is another thing, if Christ Himself gives one a taste of the celestial sweetness. Thus, while they –for instance- are preoccupied with Hinduistic philosophies, with yoga etc. – with the things that they do, they aspire to attaining a supposed spiritual state, an ecstatic state, either to feel a form of pleasure or to become superior to others – but whatever the reason, without showing any actual concern for others.
Let’s assume that a Hinduist is sitting on a shore meditating. If during that time someone at sea is in danger and is crying out for help, he will remain steadfastly indifferent; he will not budge from his place, so that he won’t deprive himself of that pleasure that he is feeling. If it was an Orthodox monk there at the time saying the Prayer, he would have dropped his prayer-rope and dived into the water to save him.
-Elder, when the Prophets Elijah and Enoch come back in order to preach repentance, will people understand what is happening, and come back to their senses?
-Those who have a good predisposition will understand. Those who aren’t positively predisposed will not understand and will be misled. Our Lord had warned us that we must be very careful, because “false christs and false prophets shall arise, and they shall give signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (5)
There are some who mistake certain deluded persons for prophets. Several years ago, there was a Protestant who constantly wandered around with a leather briefcase which had an inscription on it, written in English: “I am the Prophet Elijah”! He wore a short-sleeved shirt, he had a Bible in English and he claimed to have descended from heaven!
When they asked him what he believes in and what religion he belongs to, he said “Eh, they are obsolete things. Religions didn’t exist then!” See? To him, everyone – Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, all the heresies and all the branches of heresies are the same to him. Isn’t it obvious from this detail what the matter is? And oh, how many letters did that person send me! He would write down various passages from the Holy Bible and all his positions were Protestant… he would also send a whole lot of letters to various other people, sometimes from England and sometimes from other places. There were those who believed the things he wrote and they wanted to publish in a magazine that the Prophet Elijah had come. “Are you in your right minds? What on earth are you about to do?” I said to them…. Poor people….they are so confused!
One sins, just listening to what deluded people say. There are some who say: “If you believe that it will happen that way, then it will.” This is a belief in themselves, but behind them is the little imp. Thus, they deify themselves(6) and they strip themselves of divine Grace. It’s with theories like these that they strive to fool people. A 45-year-old man presented himself as a graduate of the Halki Orthodox Seminary and yet discussed all sorts of Hinduist philosophies. “You” I said to him “are doing damage to yourself and to others, when you expound all that refined nonsense and at the same time you present yourself as a graduate of the Orthodox School of Halki. Watch out, because you’ll become demon-possessed.”
-Elder, why do the various para-religions in Greece strive to present themselves as unions etc., and don’t admit they are religions?
-They do it in order to disorient others. Notice how Saint Constantine abolished idolatry and ordained that Christianity would be the official religion of the entire Empire, and yet, today they are striving to bring back idolatry. They allow the erection of mosques, or gurus having their own monasteries where they can freely give lectures and become centers for proselytism, and where Masons can act freely, and Jehovah’s Witnesses the same… Orthodoxy is being attacked by a swarm of theories. But they won’t last; they will eventually crumble…
Poor souls… people are fooled, because they have distanced themselves from God and have become dimmed! There were two young men who went to Hebron on a pilgrimage; they were told to put on that little Jewish cap before paying their respects to the graves of Abraham… What’s the purpose of a pilgrimage, if you have put on something that the Jews use in their worship? What can one say?... Such confusion…
In Paris, outside a Roman Catholic church there was a sign that said: “Lessons on practicing prayers with the method of yoga”. Just look where things have gone! Then the psychological problems begin, and they go mad; they don’t know what they want afterwards. There are some Roman Catholics, Protestants etc. who are taught that if one is baptized in the Orthodox Church he changes – he becomes reborn – so they think that if they get baptized, their psychological problems will go away. I warned against a certain Protestant who wanted to be baptized Orthodox: “See that you don’t baptize him. He should not be baptized.” “No” they replied; “if he is baptized, he will be helped.” “But he isn’t a case for baptism. Don’t you understand?” They paid no attention to what I said; they took him and they went down to the sea, where they baptized him! After 2-3 days, he came along and said to me: “I was baptized, but Baptism didn’t solve my psychological problems.” “Do you mean to say that you were baptized in the hope that your psychological problems would go away?” I replied. “Look here: if you had felt the need for Baptism, and if you had comprehended its worth and was aiming for that grandeur, then those problems would have gone away. But when you went to be baptized for the sake of ridding yourself of the psychological problems, how do you expect them to leave? Magically?”
They confuse magic with miracle. They can’t tell gold from bronze. And you will notice - for example - a Protestant may be baptized Orthodox then become a Roman Catholic, then say “I’m not at ease” and thereafter go back to the Protestants or back to the Orthodox. There was a Catholic who was baptized Orthodox, became a monk and lived nine years in a monastery. He came to the Hut and said to me: “I hadn’t lived the secular life as an Orthodox, so I want to return to the world and get married”! Did you hear what he said? And imagine, me telling him all the while how severe a thing he was thinking of doing, and him saying: “Why is it severe? I can’t understand.”
Today’s world feels comfortable with weird things, not the correct ones. They know about India – which is at the other end of the globe – because of her magic, and they go there. But the Holy Mountain – which is in their homeland, very close to them and with the true, mystical, in-Christ life – they are totally oblivious to! A student once told me that he had gone to India and stayed there for three and a half years. He went there looking for the truth in regard to religions. Finally, an Indian said to him: “Why did you come here? The thing you’re looking for exists in Orthodoxy. That’s where the light is. Go to the Holy Mountain and find what you’re seeking (7). That’s how he returned to Greece and came to the Holy Mountain.
-Elder, when an Orthodox goes to the Hinuists etc. and repents afterwards, does he become accepted again in the Orthodox Church?
-He will need a lot of repentance, then Myrrh. If he wishes to return to Orthodoxy and become a member of the Church again, he will normally have to confirm with a “libel”(8) that he denounces their cacodoxies and confess the Orthodox faith, then the Priest will read the special “prayers for those returning to the true faith(9)” over him, and then chrismate him with Holy Myrrh.
I have noticed several youngsters – Greek youngsters – who, without having read a single line from the Gospel, will go and read on Brahmanism, Buddhism, the Koran etc., and they also go to the Hindus. Then they find they are not at ease, so they return to Orthodoxy, but in the meantime they will have also contracted a whole lot of germs. They suffer damage, and it’s hard for them to afterwards find the truth. One must first become acquainted with Orthodoxy and then, if he doesn’t like it, he can leave. But he should first get to know Orthodoxy properly, before making any comparisons with the various theories that he has heard. Because, if he gets to know Orthodoxy, he will be able to distinguish between copper and gold, or evaluate how many karats the gold is. He will not be fooled easily, into mistaking whatever glistens as gold. However, I have noticed that only an egotist leaves Orthodoxy when he does get to know it. A humble person doesn’t leave.
Notes for Chapter 4:
2.Reincarnation is the deluded theory according to which the soul after the body’s death enters into another body – either of a human or an animal – and embarks on an interminable cycle of births and deaths.
3.Everything that is mentioned here by the Elder apply in general to the organizations of the New Age, which utilize the techniques of Yoga and meditation.
5.Mark 13:22 ("...For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders, to deceive, if possible, even the elect..")
6.See the book: “Words of the Elder Paisios the Hagiorite”, Vol.B´, and «Spiritual Awakening»; publications of The Sacred Retreat "Evangelist John the Theologian" at Souroti, Thessaloniki, 1999, pp. 275-276
7.It is a well-know fact that God may reveal His will to a well-meaning person, in various ways. One example is the narration about Barlaam’s donkey, who spoke to him in order to avert his actions, that would have been contrary to the divine will. (see Numbers 22:18-35).
8. Libel (from the Latin term libellus = booklet, pamphlet) meant a written confession of faith, which was submitted to the Synod or the Bishop of the King.
9.See the Major Book of Blessings , “ASTIR” publications, Athens 1986, p. 591.