We have had contact with a liar. This has led us to think a little about liars. What is a liar? First of all, ‘lie’ has an ontological meaning. Jesus says in the Gospel that the Devil ‘was a liar from the beginning and the father of the liar’.
The big liars are of course the demons. The ontological aspect of their being liars is seen in the fact that they do not have subsistence: they cannot retain the same shape or form for any length of time. (This is an Orthodox doctrine, but the poet William Butler Yeats, an experienced occultist who worked with demons, himself confirmed this fact.)
That is why the Elders say that the demons and their works are ‘insubsistent (anhypostatos)’: Whereas Jesus is subsistent, ‘the Way the Truth and the Life’, and ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’, the demons are completely estranged from God and have no share in Jesus’ subsistence beyond their mere continuance in being. To connect oneself to the demons is to connect oneself to what is non-existent, to what is intrinsically unstable, changing, mutable, without substance. It is to connect oneself to a lie.
The liar that we know veils herself with good works. She works in a way which is opposite to that of the Orthodox mosaicist. The Orthodox mosaicist takes little pieces of nondescript stone and painstakingly puts them one by one next to each other to create an icon: a gateway to the Truth. Our friend does the opposite: she takes little pieces of the truth and painstakingly arranges them into a lie: a false image of reality; an image of a false reality.
How can we tell a liar? The Gospel is crystal clear: ‘By their fruits you shall know them.’ We have to look beyond the veil of good works to the fruits. St Silouan extended this criterion somewhat, according to his disciple Fr Sophrony (Sakharov): if a person does not have love for his enemies, watch out.
Our friend the liar is very proud. This is an indication of her condition: the Fathers treat pride as the Devil’s disease, the worst disease of all the diseases that a man might catch.
We are reminded of another woman: Anna Karenina. Tolstoy puts this inscription on his great novel: ‘“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.”’ In Tolstoy’s novel, Anna Karenina dies on drugs, a suicide. What will finally happen to our friend, the liar? We do not know. There is a passage in Scripture that says that God the Father will make the enemies of Jesus Christ a footstool for his feet. We wait to see how our friend will end her earthly sojourn.