Sunday, 22 April 2007

Orthodox Monasticism 20 — Evagrius Ponticus on the Inner Ascent 2

It seems to us that a basic problem in discussing the history of Orthodox monasticism is to convey why anyone should be interested. We have finished with Pentecostalism. However, we are left with a question: in this day and age, when, presumably, we could just as well be Pentecostalists as Orthodox monks, why would we become Orthodox, one, and, two, why Orthodox monks? Are we monks fools?

The significance of the inner spiritual ascent is that it is the Orthodox tradition’s answer to the question of what it means to be a Christian. In other words, the Orthodox Church does not teach that Pentecostalism is one way and Orthodox spirituality another way, choose what you will. The Orthodox Church steadfastly witnesses to a single way, that of the Orthodox Church: Orthodox spirituality. Now what we are discussing is the history of Orthodox monasticism: what does that have to do with Orthodox spirituality?

As St John of the Ladder puts it, the monk is the light of the layman and the angel the light of the monk. Orthodox spirituality was being defined in the period we are now discussing. In other words, the ascetics who were defining in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Centuries what it meant to be an ascetic were defining the norm of Orthodox spirituality even for the Orthodox laymen of their time—and therefore even for the Orthodox monks and laymen of today. In discussing the history of Orthodox monasticism, what we are really discussing is what it means to be an Orthodox Christian. However, it is clear that the ascetics were well aware that a layman does not live like a monk—otherwise he would be a monk, not a layman. Still, it is worthwhile to consider this saying of Amma Synklitki:

II, 27. Amma Synklitiki said: ‘Many who were on the mountain but who were practising the acts of townspeople were lost. And many who are in cities but are doing the works of the desert are being saved. For it is possible being among the many to be a monastic in disposition; and being alone to live with crowds in the intellect.’[1]

It is also worthwhile to consider that when St Anthony the Great asked God if there was anyone who was his equal, he was sent by God to a layman in Alexandria, a shoemaker.

Therefore, when we discuss the inner ascent in Evagrius, we are not merely engaging in an intellectual exercise for the lack of anything to do: we are discussing what it means to be an Orthodox Christian.

Certainly in the case of Evagrius there are some aspects of his doctrine, for the most part not on the ascetical plane although impinging on it in places, which have been condemned by the Orthodox Church. We are not promoting those aspects of his doctrine; up to now we have avoided discussing those aspects because they are difficult to understand; and we will continue at least for the present to avoid discussing those doctrines.

However, the basic structure of the inner ascent in Evagrius took hold in Christian East and West, from Spain to Mesopotamia, through the writings of a number of great Christian ascetics, from St John Cassian in the West to St Isaac the Syrian in Mesopotamia, who based themselves on Evagrius.

What is that structure of the inner ascent according to Evagrius?

Basically it is this. A man born on the face of the earth is born with passions, which we can describe as emotional tendencies to sin. These passions are all based on pleasures of the senses, with the exception of one passion, sorrow, which withers all pleasure. These passions prevent the person from seeing the face of God.

In order to see the face of God, a man or woman must first be baptized into the Orthodox Church. That baptism restores the image of God in him or her but does not restore the likeness to God in him or her. The likeness to God is present when a person is permanently full of virtue through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

After baptism, the newly-baptized person is called to work on restoring the likeness to God in himself or herself. St Diadochos is the first writer, writing in the Gnostic Chapters about 450 AD, to discuss in detail the relation between this dynamic of restoring the likeness to God and the Jesus Prayer. That is, a disciple of Evagrius in 450 AD wrote a treatise discussing how the Jesus Prayer is connected to baptism and to the calling of the newly baptized Christian to restore the likeness to God in himself.

Now what does Evagrius himself say about this restoration of the likeness to God? Evagrius defines a spiritual journey to God in three stages. The first stage is purification. As we pointed out, as men born on the face of the earth we are born with emotional tendencies to sin. These prevent us from seeing the face of God, or, put another way, these prevent us from attaining the likeness to God that we are called to. When we are baptized these emotional tendencies to sin are weakened so that we can combat them more effectively but they are not eliminated. We ourselves must make a choice to combat them in our daily lives. This is the spiritual struggle of every Christian.

A person’s baptism does not completely eliminate his or her emotional tendencies to sin. The man or woman must every day through his or her free choice choose the road of virtue over the road of sin that his or her emotional tendencies to sin call him or her to.

Now those emotional tendencies to sin are these: gluttony, fornication, anger, sorrow, avarice, sloth (accidie), vainglory and pride. These obviously cover a much wider range of human behaviour than the merely sexual.

This spiritual struggle to restore the likeness to God entails that the person work on transforming these emotional tendencies to sin to emotional tendencies to virtue. This is the first stage of restoring the likeness to God in the person.

Evagrius talks in great detail about how these passions are combated. He pays particular attention to the ascetic’s thought processes. Usually before someone becomes an ascetic he lives in a coenobium, where he can learn the basics of combating the passions in his actions. The layperson applies this ascetical theory as best he can in the circumstances of his life, usually his married life: in the context of his wife and children. He concentrates on actions suitable to the layperson: almsgiving, justice in his social relations, regular attendance at Church, keeping the fasts and so on. However, each one of these three persons—the ascetic, the coenobite and the layman—is, according to Evagrius, basically doing the same thing: combating his passions.

That is the first stage of the spiritual journey, where the spiritual journey is what we earlier called the inner ascent of the personal Sinai, the personal Horeb. When a person has accomplished this first stage he is full of virtue. Evagrius remarks that Christian love is the offspring of the accomplishment of this first stage. That is, a person who has transformed the emotional tendencies to sin in himself to emotional tendencies to virtue is a man of Christian love. This is not something mechanical in the person’s actions (doing good deeds), but a complete transformation of the person emotionally, crowned by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The second stage, in this day and age, very few attain to, even devout monks. This is the illuminative stage. After the person has been completely healed in his emotional drives, so that they are no longer directed to sin but to virtue, then the person begins to encounter in contemplation the ‘trace’ of God in creation. This trace of God in creation is the essence that each thing has that was created by God. Now this is not the rational discovery of the inner workings of things the way someone might do a philosophy or science course. This is an immediate direct encounter with the essence of a thing as that thing was intended by the Word of God to be when it was created. This is a very high state of spiritual attainment. The monk at this stage views a created object and ‘sees’ directly with the eye of his soul the essence of the thing as it was intended by God. In this, the monk is not praying but contemplating the trace of God in creation as he is viewing that creation. He will pray at another time of the day.

There is a further stage of the illuminative way where the monk begins to contemplate the angels, but this is a dangerous matter to talk about because of the danger of demonic deception.

The final stage is to enter into union with God in prayer. This is where the person both sees the face of God and completely restores the likeness to God in himself.

One of the very basic points in the inner ascent of these three stages as defined by Evagrius is that as the person ascends through the three stages he passes from the data of sense perception to what are called intelligible essences. This is a very difficult area, but basically what it means is this: In daily life, we perceive things with our senses: we see the computer in front of us and so on. As we proceed in the spiritual life, we have to leave the world of the senses behind and enter into the intelligible world of essences. Now it should be clear that this intelligible world of essences is very different from the world of fantasy. The Evagrian tradition is very clear that the world of fantasy is ultimately demonic in nature. In common language, to leave the world of the senses for the world of fantasy is to encourage a psychotic episode in ourselves. What we want to do is surpass the world of senses through purification of our emotional drives to sin so as to enter into the world of essences, from there to ascend through further purification to union with God in prayer. It is intrinsic to this spirituality that the intelligible world of essences is only attainable to those who are completely healed emotionally. The reason for this is that the emotional tendencies to sin, dependent as they are on pleasures of the senses, tie us to the world of the senses, preventing us from entering into the world of intelligible essences, thus preventing us from entering into union with God. It should be clear why Pentecostalist spirituality is preposterous in this context.

The ascent takes decades. Evagrian ascetical doctrine is directed to explaining how we should commence and practise this inner ascent. That is, Evagrius is laying down general principles and explanations about how to proceed along this spiritual road. Hence, spiritual practices which diverged from this theory would have to be treated with caution, lest they be a sign from the devil to overturn the Christian even before he started on the spiritual road. On this blog we ourselves have had this as our scope: in various ways to convey what we ourselves understand to be sound doctrine as concerns the spiritual life of the Orthodox man and woman, whether monk or layman.

This outline of the stages of the inner ascent is very similar to the doctrine in the West of St John of the Cross, with due allowance being given to St John of the Cross’ Roman Catholic background. The reason that the stages are so similar seems to be that St John Cassian introduced Evagrian ascetical doctrine into the West, where it was received into the Benedictine tradition and from there spread throughout Roman Catholicism (although there are certainly other independent formulations of the mystical ascent in Roman Catholicism).

[1]Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Systematic Collection, Volume I. Introduction, Critical Text… †Jean-Claude Guy, S.J. 1993. Sources chrétiennes No 387. Paris, France: Les Éditions du Cerf.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Good Friday

(We originally wrote this on Good Friday, but we were dissatisfied with it and did not post it. We are now posting it.)

The reading from the Apostle for the Third Hour of Good Friday is this:

Brothers, while we were yet weak Christ died at the right time on behalf of impious men. For barely will someone die on behalf of a just man. For perhaps someone even dares to die on behalf of the Good. God recommends his own love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died on our behalf. Very much more, then, justified now in his blood, we will be saved by means of him from the wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by means of the death of his Son, very much more, having been reconciled, we will be saved in his life. (Romans 5, 6–10.)

We have been discussing the rather authoritarian approach to the sinner of the Pentecostalist—and indeed of the Right Wing Evangelical. How does the Evangelical understand this passage?

Let us suppose that we are sinners walking down the street who encounter an Evangelical who is witnessing. What the Evangelical wants us to do is to be ‘born again’. This is a very complex affair which requires that we ‘repent’, get down on our knees and pray publicly to be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ (perhaps not on the street—later in a chapel). We are thus ‘born again’. From discussions with persons who have passed through Evangelicalism, we have the impression that sometimes there is a genuine experience involved, but more often than not there is not. Moreover, there is a rather high ‘lapse rate’—higher than one might at first think—of those who are born again.

The next thing is that the ‘born again’ has to accept an ideology. We use that word advisedly. The ideology is ‘sola Scriptura’: the inerrant literal truth of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Next there is the need to be integrated into the community of believers. This is rather complicated, because it largely entails internalizing the Evangelical ideology and interpretation of Scripture.

If you don’t believe that Evangelicals have an interpretation of Scripture, you are very naïve. Part of the ideology, however, is that they have no interpretation, only the literal text. If you study Evangelical translations of the New Testament against the Greek text—especially the received text of the Patriarch of Constantinople, but even Nestle-Aland—you will see that there is far more interpretation of the text going on than is admitted, the interpretation being hidden in what purports to be a literal translation of Scripture.

However, here is where the whole issue of the rigid superstructure that we discussed in the previous post comes in. We have a person who is walking down the street, a sinner of some kind since all men are sinners. He encounters a witnessing Evangelical. He is persuaded to accept an ideology. He is pressured to accept the ideology as it is being taught by the group to which the person witnessing belongs. Woe to him if he does not. Part of the ideology is the private interpretation of Scripture—so long as it agrees with the group’s interpretation.

Moreover, the legacy of Luther, there is a doctrine of justification by faith, not by works. So there is no effort to cure the passions that are roiling the sea of the sinner’s unconscious. The belief superstructure—the Evangelical ideology—is imposed on this roiling sea of passion. This sets up a deep tension in the person’s personality: he has these drives (passions) that he can’t get rid of but that he’s not supposed to have; he is trying to internalize the group ideology. Enter Ted Haggard. That’s where we came in. Now add to this ‘ecstatic’ Pentecostal prayer meetings. The ‘ecstatic’ prayer meeting relieves the deep tension in the person’s psyche by allowing him to channel his unconscious passions into worship.

This is all very tedious.

Let us now look at how an Orthodox understands this passage. Orthodoxy is person-oriented. Persons meet persons. The first thing that an Orthodox person who practises his religion projects is himself: who he is. If he has love in his heart for others, God will manifest him to the other. The other will understand. This is a matter of deep speaking to deep.

Now the main thing in the case of an Orthodox conversion is for the sinner to meet God in the other, the Orthodox. God is love. As St Paul says, ‘God recommends his own love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died on our behalf.’ The sinner can only be converted to Orthodoxy if he meets love in the person of an Orthodox—even if that person doesn’t say a word of overt preaching.

Now in the case of lonely people, an unscrupulous man might manipulate this need for love by good interpersonal skills the same way that an encyclopaedia salesman manipulates lonely housewives and househusbands to buy needlessly expensive encyclopaedias.

However, most Orthodox don’t have such a militant, manipulative approach to witnessing their faith. They simply go about their business and who they are is manifest to the persons they meet.

Now the thing that a person who has met God in another Orthodox and who wishes to become Orthodox must do is meet God in a more direct way in the Orthodox Church. This is very difficult, especially in cases of Christians who belong to other denominations.

In our experience, Orthodoxy is a closed book to Westerners. They just don’t see anything in it. Anything spiritual, that is. The Orthodox seem to be hung up. Ritual. Dressing like the peasants. All that Tolstoy stuff. Whereas we Westerners have the truth…

The Westerner has the truth with his head. The Orthodox have the truth with their soul and body.

Now the norm in a conversion is to be baptized. It is baptism that gives us the Holy Spirit. It is baptism that gives us the reconciliation to God that St Paul is speaking of. Even St Paul believed that. It is in Orthodox baptism that we finally meet God in a definitive way, that meeting being consummated in our first Holy Communion after our baptism. We thus enter into life: ‘For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by means of the death of his Son, very much more, having been reconciled, we will be saved in his life.’

May all men have a good Easter season!
Orthodox Monk

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Wherein We Respond to Two Comments

In our recent post Pentecostalism and the Orthodox Tradition of the Philokalia’, we discussed certain aspects of Pentecostalism in relation to Orthodox worship and, especially, Orthodox spirituality. In what for our blog is a raging controversy we received two comments. They were closely linked in time, the one from Australia and the other from South Africa. The one comment, from Les Chatwin, says this:

Thank you for this post. As someone who would consider themselves pentecostal/charismatic you have presented some challenging thoughts. I have to confess that some of the ascetic practices you mentioned are very confronting but, as I process this post, I want to consider how much of this is my innate desire to “quick fix” religious experiences. I appreciate your honest in grappling with these issues.

The other comment, from Steve Hayes, says this:

I tried to comment on this yesterday, but Blogger would not let me, and kept timing out, so I wrote some comments in my own blog at Notes from underground: Orthodoxy as Boutique Religion?

We went to the post mentioned by Mr Hayes’ in his comment and read some of it, downloading it, we thought, for later, more mature, consideration off-line. But we made a mistake and didn’t have the text in front of us when we prepared the basic draft of this post, although we did have some of the posts by other bloggers on which Mr Hayes commented in his own post. We did reread Mr Hayes’ post before we made this post.

We rather prefer Mr Chatwin’s comment. Indeed, we went to his blog and looked at some of it. We were rather interested in Mr Chatwin’s discussion of ‘Altered States of Consciousness’, because, we think, the issue of valid and invalid Altered States of Consciousness is at the heart of an Orthodox discernment of the pentecostal/charismatic experience, as Mr Chatwin puts it.

When we looked at Mr Hayes’ post, insofar as it concerned us, we were struck by two things: First, Mr Hayes is an Orthodox with a background in Anglican/African Pentecostalism/charismaticism; and, second, he once got into trouble putting on a church service similar to the one at the New Life Church that we took such a dim view of. But when we reviewed Mr Hayes’ comments in his post as they refer to us, having reread our own post on which he is commenting, we wondered whether Mr Hayes had really read our post. Moreover, when we went to the other blogs that Mr Hayes was commenting on, especially concerning Orthodoxy the boutique religion, we were left rather cold: nothing spoke to us in the heart.

Let us begin with the comment we prefer, Mr Chatwin’s comment.

First of all, we got into this Pentecostalist thing by accident: we thought that things were getting rather tedious in our endless discussion of the history of Orthodox monasticism and wanted a change of pace. So we chose Ted Haggard—the day before he came out of his three-week intensive. Then, completely independently, someone commented on our post ‘Orthodox Monasticism 14 — The Charism of Discernment’, establishing to his own satisfaction a parallel between the religious experience of a great Orthodox Elder—considered by many a saint just 16 years after his death—and both a ‘Glory Fit’ in the Salvation Army and the ‘Toronto Blessing’. The fellow even gave us an address in Redding, California where we could all go to partake of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ in its newest form. Then we found out that the New Life Church, founded by Ted Haggard, had connections to ‘Third Wave’ Pentecostalism. So here we are talking about Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy without being an expert in the sociology of American religion.

Let us look at some of the issues raised by Mr Chatwin’s comment. He mentions our ‘challenging thoughts’. The way the thing evolved, we would treat as a unity our nine posts from ‘Coercive Christianity’ through ‘Pentecostalism and the Orthodox Tradition of the Philokalia’ to this post. If Mr Chatwin, or any other interested reader, has not read all those posts, then we would ask him to do so.

The next thing that Mr Chatwin says is this: ‘I have to confess that some of the ascetic practices you mentioned are very confronting…’ We are not at all sure what Mr Chatwin means. Let us look at the word ‘confronting’. When we ourselves speak in a general way of ‘coercive Christianity’, what we have in mind is the social organization of a church that is very authoritarian—described in detail, in the case of the New Life Church, in the Harper’s Magazine article we referenced in the post that Mr Chatwin is commenting on, and manifested in practice, we think, in the Overseers’ handling of Ted Haggard. This seems to be hinted at also in Mr Hayes’ own references to the discernment that was going on in the particular African charismatic churches that he discusses in his own post:

At Iviyo conferences, on the other hand, while there may have been 2000 people yelling and jumping and praying in tongues, there would be, out of sight, in the crypt of the church, or a school classroom, a group of about 20, mostly priests and nuns, praying all the time. If anyone claimed to have a revelation from God to give to the main meeting, they had first to take it to those who were praying, who might say that no, that was not a revelation from God, but a spiritual delusion (for which Orthodox Christians have a technical term, plani or prelest).

Some American charismatic leaders were aware of the dangers of this lack of discipline, and to counteract it, people like Derek Prince and others started the "shepherding movement" but this in turn led to excesses in the opposite direction.

In the context of such an authoritarian church social structure, there are confrontations between prophets or pastors, and sinners. These are personal. These can be very damaging to the sinner. These confrontations are essentially fascist, in precisely the sense that they do not respect the personal spiritual freedom of the sinner. These confrontations are coercive: they force the sinner to behave and act in certain ways, not through an organic evolution of his personality but through a rigid psychological superstructure of authoritarian belief imposed on a seething unconscious. We discussed this in the post ‘Coercive Christianity’. We attempted there to delve into the social psychology of this coercion.

Now the only ascetical practice that we as an Orthodox monk can conceive of that might be similarly coercive, or ‘confronting’, is obedience. After all, the Abbot has authority; his monks are under a vow of obedience. However, except in cases of extreme disorder, an Orthodox monastery does not function either like an army or like the Hitler Youth. It’s just not there. The reason is ecclesiological. The Orthodox Church is formed not by charismatics who think, rightly or wrongly, that they have the Holy Spirit and the Truth, nor by charismatic leaders in the sociological sense, where the leader may be an out-and-out charlatan—but by the mysteries of the Orthodox Church, what Westerners call the sacraments. This is important. (It is also a dimension that is completely lacking in the discussions of Orthodoxy and Western Christianity by Arturo Vasquez and his friends that Mr Hayes commented on.)

Now it is possible for a monk or a novice to land in a monastery where the Abbot is mixed-up and thinks that he is Napoleon or whoever. This is in fact written about by St John of the Ladder, who tells the story of a monk, Akakios, who was without reason routinely dealt physical blows by his Abba (Abbot). However, Akakios did go to an Elder with the charism of discernment and the Elder discerned that that was Akakios’ road. Indeed St John of the Ladder explicitly states that the Elder discerned that this way of life was for Akakios not in vain. Such a way of life is considered to be an imitation of Christ who was crucified. In this sense, since we are all called to the cross of Christ, we are all called to this sort of confrontation with our old man. Of course, in the case of Akakios, who is a recognized saint of the Orthodox Church, this was physical martyrdom.

In the case of other ascetical practices, where the ascetical practices are individual (for example, fasting), the monk is confronting himself in a spirit of obedience to his Abbot.

In the case of ascetical practices that are more socially oriented, for example enduring scorn at the hands of others, these are considered to purify the soul.

But to find instances in Orthodox monasticism of outright coercion of the conscience of the other in a rejection of his fundamental freedom as a human being who is an image of God—this is the sort of thing that causes the Church to intervene.

Moreover, if we may be so bold, Mr Chatwin, who has a deep spirituality, has an asceticism that would make most of us quake to consider: he suffers from depression. We would not suggest that Mr Chatwin avoid his medication or his doctors, quite the contrary: he is learning a very deep humility in confronting his illness medically with the help of Christ. And St John of the Ladder remarks that if you see someone reaching dispassion (the goal of the spiritual journey) in a very short time you can be sure that he went by the road of humility. All asceticism is really the carrying of the cross of Christ, Mr Chatwin.

In the particular case of Orthodox monastic asceticism, serious mental illness is considered to prevent the practice of all forms of monastic asceticism. And the reason should be clear.

To speak generally, obedience in the context of the mysteries of the Orthodox Church is not the same as an authoritarian, confrontational social organization.

Orthodox monastic obedience in particular is sweetened and tempered by the presence of the Holy Spirit in both the disciple and the master. And this presence of the Holy Spirit is intrinsic to the monastic calling: Orthodox monasticism was instituted not by man but by the Holy Spirit: St Theodore Studite treats the monastic tonsure as one of the mysteries (sacraments) of the Church.

In the broader sense of general Orthodox ecclesiastical obedience (of the priest to his bishop; of the layman to his parish priest or bishop; even of the wife to her husband), this obedience is tempered not only by a cultural tradition which is not authoritarian in the sense we are discussing but also by the very presence of the Holy Spirit in each of the members of the pair (priest and bishop; layman and priest; layman and bishop; wife and husband), the Holy Spirit entering into the relationship in the mystery (sacrament) establishing the relationship ecclesially (baptism, chrismation, ordination, marriage).

It is here that we wonder about the Pentecostalist spirit: the ecclesiology is prima facie disturbed, as is evident even from Mr Hayes' own defence of Pentecostalism.

Now we would like to turn to the issue that Mr Chatwin raises elsewhere in his blog, that of Altered States of Consciousness.

The problem is this. On Mr Chatwin’s blog there is a quotation from a fellow—evidently an anthropologist—who is observing Guatemalan charismatics who enter into trance states. The anthropologist thinks that the charismatics are encountering God: ‘Only here you can reach out and touch the face of the divine.’ The Orthodox would be a little more cautious.

This is a very complicated issue to deal with in a few words. Part of the problem is the dominant paradigm in American studies of religious experience, the so-called ‘Chicago School’. The Chicago School teaches that all religions are basically the same, merely different means to enter into states wherein we can all ‘reach out and touch the face of the divine’. What must be emphatically understood is that from an Orthodox point of view not all religious experiences are the same or even equivalent. This is not the sort of understanding that the Chicago School instils in its students.

Moreover, the Orthodox do not consider that the only interpretative options are ‘the emotional, the psychotic and the spiritual’. An Orthodox Elder would have no problem saying to someone:

1. That experience is emotional.

2. That experience is psychological.

3. That experience is psychotic.

4. The experience is from the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

5. That experience is neither emotional nor psychological nor psychotic; nor is it from the Holy Spirit of the Living God: that experience is demonic.

Although there are rough-and-ready external criteria in the Orthodox Church for discerning a spiritual experience (e.g. no one in the Holy Spirit curses Jesus Christ), in the Orthodox Church the criteria of discernment are not in the nature of things external. An Orthodox Elder does not have a handbook; he has the Holy Spirit. When an Orthodox monk discusses a spiritual experience with an Orthodox Elder it is not a matter of what the Elder’s teacher told him—although that sometimes plays a role—but of the Elder’s being himself able spiritually to ‘sniff out’ the spirit behind the monk’s experience.

A demonic experience is not necessarily unpleasant (at least in the beginning—the end is a different matter). ‘For even Satan is transformed into an angel of light.’ Hence, saying that an experience was demonic is not necessarily to say that it was subjectively unpleasant. It is to say that what happened—whatever the external manifestations might have been—was not an act of the Holy Spirit but of a fallen angel.

Moreover, it is not even out of the question that an experience with a demon would not only be pleasant but make the person who experienced it zealous for the practice of his religion, even Protestant or other Christian, as the person understood his religion after that demonic experience.

Of course that is what is in issue in the ‘Toronto Blessing’. No one doubts that the fellow who commented on our post ‘Orthodox Monasticism 14 — The Charism of Discernment’ experienced something pleasant and supernatural via the ‘Toronto Blessing’. No one believes that he was merely manipulated emotionally by a nasty fellow out to take his goods into thinking he experienced something supernatural when he didn’t. But was it the Holy Spirit of the Living God that the fellow experienced? Just the same as Elder Porphyrios? We think that it is highly likely that the man was deceived.

It is in this context that the Guatemalan charismatic trance experiences have to be considered. In the study of religion (particularly shamanism) ‘trance’ is actually a technical term with a specific content. One of the rough-and-ready Orthodox rules of discernment is that trance states are demonic. Orthodox spiritual experiences called ‘ecstatic’ in the precise sense of the Philokalia have a completely different character.

The problem of demonic deception is what is also in issue in Mr Hayes’ discussion of the African Pentecostalist/charismatic movements. He especially remarks: ‘The founders of the Iviyo movement, Bishop Alpheus Zulu and Canon Philip Mbatha, were not, as "Orthodox Monk" implies, demonised’—i.e. possessed by demons. How would we know, Mr Hayes?

Particularly interesting to us in this phenomenon is the interplay between the ‘anything goes’ worship for—excuse us, Mr Hayes—the masses, and the disciplined elite discernment team engaged in non-stop prayer and, it seems, authoritarian control of the ‘ecstatic’ masses. We find the interplay between the ‘ecstatic’ (in the sociological sense) Pentecostalist worship and the authoritarian church organization to be both very, very interesting and very, very revealing.

It should be understood that ‘ecstatic’ in the sense of the Philokalia has a completely different meaning from ‘ecstatic’ in the sociological sense. In the precise sense of the Philokalia, ‘ecstatic’ refers to the condition of the mind in certain cases that the Holy Spirit descends on the person and his mind temporarily loses certain functions in the act of being united to the Holy Spirit. In the case of the sociological meaning of ‘ecstatic’, it means ‘out of one’s mind, in an abnormal state of consciousness, freed from the usual norms of internalized social control’.

And here is where we wonder whether Mr Hayes understood our post. For what we contrasted to the dynamic tension between ‘ecstatic’ Pentecostalist worship and authoritarian church social structure was the inward ascent of the personal Sinai, the personal Horeb, in order to meet God in the gentle breeze of the Prophet Elias—and that in the context of the mysteries of the Orthodox Church. It is in the gentle breeze that the Holy Spirit descends upon the mind, perhaps causing the mind to enter into ‘ecstasy’ in the sense of the Philokalia.

In the case of ‘ecstatic’ Pentecostalist worship and authoritarian social control, recall that at the heart of the authoritarian social control is the imposition of a rigid psychological belief superstructure on a seething unconscious. But the ‘ecstatic’ Pentecostalist worship frees the seething unconscious from that rigid superstructure, at least for a time, so that the unconscious content can be acted out. Hence the dynamic interplay between the ‘ecstatic’ Pentecostalist worship of the masses and the disciplined and authoritarian control by the shepherding group. Moreover, members of the one group can oscillate in and out of the other. That is, in common worship a shepherd may enter into ‘ecstatic’ states where he loses for a time his disciplined discernment.

In the case of the ascent of the personal Horeb, what is involved is a calming of the person and the slow removal of the superstructure so that the unconscious can be encountered consciously, thus to be purified and emptied completely. The purification and emptying of the unconscious is considered in the Philokalia to be the presupposition of an authentic encounter with God in the gentle breeze. Hence, an ‘ecstatic’ experience in the sense of the Philokalia presupposes a complete purification and emptying of the unconscious whereas in the case of Pentecostalism it really means a freeing of the unconscious to do as it will.

Is it all the same, Mr Hayes? Does someone get there with Pentecostalist rock worship just the same as he gets there with the Jesus Prayer under the guidance of an Orthodox Elder? What weight do you assign to the witness of the Orthodox tradition?