Gospel on Delusion

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). "Good part. Conversations with cloisterers. Conversation 44. About delusion".

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman)

Today I would like, based on the Gospel, to hold a conversation about delusion. At first glance, it seems that nothing is said about it there, but this is only at first, superficial, glance. If we delve into the Gospel, remember its entire content and think a little, then we will find several passages in which (though without using the word "delusion") a false spiritual state is spoken of, which is quite natural, because the Gospel is the source of truth, and such an important subject as delusion must be mentioned in it. First of all, a false spiritual state, an attempt to deceive the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is spoken of in the Gospel when it tells about the temptation of the Savior in the wilderness. Many holy fathers, comforting and encouraging us in our spiritual warfare, remind us that even Jesus Christ Himself experienced warfare from the devil.

But if the devil comes to us mostly through thoughts, since we are fallen beings and our mind, damaged by the fall, became accessible for satanic suggestions, then the Lord Jesus Christ, as a sinless man, could not be tempted in this way. The devil-tempter (and the evangelist calls him namely "the tempter") approached Him personally, because he could not tempt His mind, and, seducing Him, tried first of all to awaken the desire for vain glory in the Lord, the desire to visibly prove His spirituality, His Divine origin. Of course, one can consider these temptations of the Savior in the wilderness from different points of view: one can say that the devil tempted the Lord with thoughts of gluttony, glory and power, but one should pay attention to such words of the tempter when he approached the Lord: "If you are the Son of God..."- that is, the devil tried to convince the Savior of the need to glorify Himself with miracles - first by turning stones into bread, and then by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple in front of everyone and remaining unharmed. Finally, he already in the most frank way demanded worship for himself, promising the Lord all the kingdoms of the world for this, shown, as it is said in the Gospel, in a moment of time.

All this is not new, especially for those who read the ascetic writings of the holy fathers, stories about their lives and exploits. We know that sometimes, with God's permission, the devil had a special boldness towards some ascetics: he showed them extraordinary seductive images, frightened them with terrible visions, either himself or sending hordes of demons, that is, he tried to seduce the ascetics who had achieved great success and repelled the thoughts, by depicting seductive pictures before their sensual gaze. And therefore, if we consider what the Savior experienced from an ascetic point of view, we will see that the devil tried to deceive Him. Of course, it seems to us insane; but nevertheless, if the devil approached (and the Gospel cannot distort the truth) with such a goal to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, then all the more he can come to us - and comes, instilling prideful thoughts first of all. These thoughts, just as in the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness, seem justified: just as the Savior was really the Son of God, so we see in ourselves something really good, truly spiritual, and, therefore, we are often tempted with prideful thoughts. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1). The words “led up of the Spirit” mean that the temptation was acceptable before God. This is the case with us: everything that happens, including the connivance to be tempted by the spirit of pride, is lawful and inevitable, and it is impossible to get rid of it, to make it so that it does not happen to us at all. And let people not seduce themselves with the thought that temptations can be avoided under certain circumstances, that if, for example, we behave wisely, the devil will not tempt us, will not try to seduce us with pride, rousing it with any suggestions, and sometimes even with visions.

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread (Matthew 4:2-3). Of course, it is impossible to fully equate what ordinary sinful people experience with what the Lord Jesus Christ experienced. If we have such vain thoughts, temptations may be false - after all, we really are not able to perform a miracle, when for the Savior it was, of course, possible to make a miracle, and He did this out of mercy later, feeding the hungry people with bread. But in the wilderness, the devil wanted to force Him to do this in order to confirm His Divinity, that is, for the sake of vanity. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread (I remind you that I do not fully interpret this event, but pay attention only to a certain moment - to the fact that the devil wanted to tempt the Savior, trying to push Him into the sin of vanity - heg. A) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Matthew 4: 4-6). Here the temptation is already in the requirement to perform the miracle with the multitude of people who always surrounded the Jerusalem temple. The Savior responds to this with a saying from Scripture, again rejecting vainglory: Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me (Matthew 4: 7-9). Note that the devil showed extraordinary boldness, although some commentators speak about this with great caution: it seems inconceivable to them that the devil could take the Savior and carry Him to the mountain. But if you look at this from an ascetic point of view and remember the biographies of devotees of piety, it becomes clear that this is possible, because sometimes the devil received some power even over the human body. Since in this case the struggle of the Son of God with the devil was direct, then, apparently, he was allowed more. And finally, the devil tries to tempt the Lord with a vision like with those ascetics of piety who have managed to purify themselves of sinful thoughts and to whom the devil cannot come through the mind: Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. The Life of Isaac, an ascetic of the Kiev Caves, tells how the demons deceived him, tricking him into worshiping the devil. The devil is an extremely proud creature, he can be called the inventor of pride, its very embodiment, therefore, of course, he wants to be worshiped, even unwillingly. But the Lord rejects this temptation, referring to the Holy Scripture, as before: Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Matthew 4: 10-11).

So we see that the devil tried to deceive the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Having, of course, a vicious experience and, it seems, believing in evil and human weakness, he thought that in the Lord he would find some manifestation of the usual trait of human nature - pride, but he left ashamed. If the devil was allowed to tempt the Savior, then all the more we must be careful, vigorous and extremely wary of thoughts of vanity and pride, even if these thoughts were based on the most real, true virtues and the presence of God's grace in us.

The Savior warns His disciples that such a phenomenon as delusion will be very common among those who think they belong to His disciples. Some interpreters, explaining this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, say that, in fact, this should not be so: if there were people who prophesy or perform miracles and at the same time do not fulfill the Divine Law, this would mean nothing. But such an interpretation is somehow discursive and abstract: in reality we see many hundreds and even thousands of those who imagine themselves to be the closest disciples of the Savior, doers of His will, but, in fact, oppose Him. For example, the so-called heterodox saints. Their spiritual condition is perfectly explained by the Holy Hierarch Ignatius (Brianchaninov), who proves that they were in delusion. Or in our Orthodox environment: false elders, clairvoyants, sometimes even consecrated as saints, although their behavior had clear signs of delusion. For example, in his "An Offering to Modern Monasticism," Saint Ignatius writes that some Ivan Yakovlevich Koreysha, a man who, at least in the past, was highly revered as a holy fool for Christ and considered a clairvoyant God-pleaser, was in obvious delusion. And in our time, such a "fashion", the thirst to find some kind of clairvoyant, makes people travel all over Russia, and often some wretched, sometimes mentally ill people are considered clairvoyants. The very desire to see the saint deprives the admirer of common sense, surrounds the "saint" with a kind of halo, and this person sees holiness where a reasonable person sees only stupidity and foolishness, not for Christ, but literal foolishness, madness. Among such "saints" there are, of course, charlatans, but it also happens that people so sincerely believe in their imaginary holiness that they even begin to prophesy - and something comes true, but something does not. Fortunately, in our time, no one has especially convincing signs of "holiness": the deceived do not have either the gift of miracles or real insight, therefore it is easier to make sure of their delusion than in antiquity, when people were more zealous and therefore delusion was much stronger and more seductive.

Those who consider themselves Christians, such as Catholics and Protestants, had in the 19th century such famous visionaries as Swedenborg or the Western mystic Jakob Bohme. By the way, our Russian religious philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev was fond of the latter's works. So, in connection with the teachings of Jakob Bohme, I will give you the following case. One Christian was interested in the mysticism of Kabbalah and communicated with Kabbalists. Kabbalah is actually not some kind of black magic, as some suggest, but a secret, one might say, semi-official spiritual doctrine, one of the teachings of Judaism. Talmudism (the official teaching) treats Kabbalah with caution, although there are people who simultaneously consider themselves devoted to the traditional Talmudic teachings and are trying to use the practice of Kabbalah to achieve, as it seems to them, spiritual states. The practice of Kabbalah has changed over the centuries, but at the time when the episode I am describing occurred, the Kabbalist mystics believed that they attain a spiritual state by meditating on the name of God. Concentrating on this reflection, plunging into it - a kind of meditation, as it is now customary to say, that has nothing to do with unceasing prayer, when we repeat the words of prayer and remember the name of God, asking God for help and mercy – they reached a certain ecstatic state... And now one Christian, of course not of the Orthodox faith, probably a Protestant, wishing to learn this practice and thinking that he could apply it, being a Christian, tried to ask a Jewish Kabbalist about everything. The latter objected to him: why do you need this, when you have your own mystic - Jakob Bohme, with whom you will find the same thing that we have? From this it is clear that although from the outside Bohme was considered a Christian, but in essence the spiritual practice he and the Jews had was one and the same: if a Christian reaches the same ecstatic state as a Jew, then it is obvious that this Christian is in delusion. For outside of Christ there can be no true knowledge of God, the Savior Himself said about this: "He that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

This is how the Lord says about all kinds of false prophets, whether they are heterodox, whether they are in our midst, among the monastics, or among the laity, of whom many are deceived simply out of their ignorance: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7: 21-23). From this we see: if a person prophesies, works miracles, casts out demons not by the power of Christ, - Who never knew such people, although they think that they do it in His name - then, undoubtedly, a man does it only by the power of Satan. Therefore, miracles and prophecies are not a sign of holiness, as the holy fathers rightly argue. A sign of holiness is love, and especially humility, - of course, with the right faith.

But in this case, we should not so much care about the heterodox as about our own state of mind. We must understand that outward signs - such as, for example, prophecy, which the apostle Paul calls the highest gift - are not actually attractive to us and we need to be extremely careful even when we see only minor spiritual changes in ourselves. I do not think that any of our sisters were honored with the gift of prophecy, but some much lesser spiritual achievements can also be taken by us as a sign of great success. It happens that a person acquires true virtue, and it also serves as a reason for awakening in him extreme pride. A person, having supposedly made a just conclusion about his spiritual state, not only loses this virtue, but, most importantly, falls into a terrible ditch of pride. He begins to think of himself that he is casting out demons in the name of Christ, even if not from others, but from his soul, as if heals from passions, even if not others, but himself, but in fact it turns out that the Lord never knew him. Therefore, we must be extremely careful. If the devil tried to tempt the Savior Himself and if not some heathens, but people who attained high gifts and performed great miracles in the name of Jesus Christ, were in fact completely alien to Him, then we should have much greater caution and even fear - people who have very and very mediocre ability and little zeal.

In the prediction about the end of the world, the Savior also talks a lot about false prophecies and, in general, false spirituality. I will not quote all the evangelists, because they largely repeat each other, but I will give a narration only from the Gospel of Matthew: “Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you...” (Matthew 24: 1-4). Pay attention to the words: “no man deceive you”, they mean that we must beware of any false prophets, false christs. However, these liars also came from somewhere, because once they were in a good spiritual state, but it became false, turned into delusion.

"For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many..." (Matthew 24: 5). And again the Savior says: "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.... Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:11, 23-24). Let's pay attention to these words: Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. We, too, often search for Him in the wrong place. If we have an unreasonable thirst for higher spiritual states and without humility begin to strive for them, then we may also be in danger of falling into delusion, because it is said that the devil will want to deceive, if possible, the very elect, that is, people who truly please God.

A person who is deceived or in danger of being deceived often has the correct spiritual concepts. This right opinion about certain very important spiritual objects for salvation gives him a reason for pride, makes him somehow special, significant in his own eyes. When it comes down to business, it turns out that he does not understand the completely elementary things that he just spoke about with confidence. Therefore, we should not console ourselves with the fact that we have a correct judgment about spiritual subjects, for example, about the Jesus prayer, about humility, about repentance, about obedience, about the revelation of thoughts, and so on. Correct understanding is not yet fulfillment. Moreover, when it comes down to it, the theoretical concepts that seemed to us correct turn out to be untenable, that is, we understand that we judged about the spiritual things wrong, only in the eyes of other people and in our own ones they seemed wise. There is a similar example in the Gospel. And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live (Luke 10: 25-28). That is, the answer of the lawyer was absolutely correct. But his next words, cited by him to justify himself, in fact reveal his inability to fulfill what he has said: But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29). He just answered correctly that one must love God and one's neighbor, and when the Savior says: "Do this and you will live," the lawyer suddenly shows that he does not know who his neighbor is, that is, that in reality he has no love, but has only a certain idea of it and does not realize that love needs to be shown in practice. After all, a person who truly loves his neighbor will not ask who his neighbor is, he already knows this from experience. The lawyer shows spiritual emptiness by his question.

An example of a deceived person in the Gospel is the Pharisee from the famous parable, who, according to the classification of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), can be attributed to those who are in delusion called "opinion" (conceit). Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 18: 10-14). Here we see the deceived Pharisee, despising everyone: those who were far from him, and those who were before his eyes, like this publican. He considered himself a righteous man only because he performed some of the simplest, elementary virtues, and he saw nothing else. Likewise, we are: due to the fact that we do something, for example, we carefully follow the rule, seem to be obeying and so on, we often begin to take pride in having a false idea of our “righteousness”. Being in such a state, you can reach delusion in the most terrible sense of the word, that is, you can begin to experience some false spiritual experiences. After all, the one who prophesied in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but in fact turned out to be alien to Him, apparently had some kind of revelation or vision, and not just invented his prophecies. It can be said of such a person that he has gone too far. The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, did not identify His disciples with the erring Pharisees, Sadducees and the people who were sometimes influenced by these people, but at the same time He warned His followers: " Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16: 6) ... This means that one can be a disciple of the Savior and at the same time have in oneself a leaven of pride, vanity, imaginary righteousness, and boasting. In extreme cases, this even leads to an openly false spiritual state, when a person thinks that he is so close to the Lord that he performs miracles and prophesies in His name, but in fact such a person is completely alien to Him.

In conclusion, I will quote the words of the Savior about how the Kingdom of God should be revealed. Of course, it follows from the parable of the publican and the Pharisee that, first of all, a true Christian must have a repentant spirit. Where there is repentance, there is concentration, attention, sobering, there true justification is possible. The repentant publican left the temple more justified than the seemingly righteous Pharisee, who proclaimed himself righteous and humiliated others. And he was demanded of the Pharisees, that is, he was asked by those people who did not have a real understanding of spiritual life and believed that only the external side of actions, often combined with vanity and pride, saves them and makes them special compared to other people, God's chosen ones. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17: 20-21). Venerable Isaac the Syrian explains these words as follows: the Kingdom of God will not come with observation in the sense that when we wait and seek it, it does not come, but when we humble ourselves and consider ourselves completely unworthy of it, then it opens within us in the most convincing way, so that we feel and experience it without needing any further proof or any external confirmation of our spiritual experience. I am not saying this so that we can trust ourselves, but to understand that a person whose spiritual experience is false, even if he works miracles, always hesitates.

As an example, we can name the founder of one of the world religions - the prophet Muhammad, or, as the Muslims call him, Mohamad. Throughout the time during which the angel Jibril appeared to him, the prophet experienced hesitation: periods of rapture followed by periods of extreme despair, so that he even attempted suicide, but Jibril saved him. And it is clear why he saved him: the one who was ready to kill himself already actually belonged to the devil. Such, even if he remains alive, will undoubtedly be his faithful slave, more correctly, not even a slave, but a blind instrument in the hands of the devil, which is what happened. So, we see the hesitations of Muhammad: he had the greatest doubts about the validity of his spiritual experiences and revelations, so he even turned to his wife to "prompt" him whether it was really Jibril or not. I can't talk about how she did it, because this is an extremely ridiculous, blasphemous and even obscene story.

When a person is in a truly spiritual state, then the Kingdom of God really opens up within him. If some ascetics are given some kind of visions, then first in their souls, in their hearts, they feel the true wind of grace. What are the signs of true grace? I will tell you briefly, only the most important things.

When our Lord Jesus Christ appeared after His resurrection to His disciples, He first of all said to them: "Peace be unto you" (John 20:19). It is peace that is the most important, first and obligatory sign of the operation of grace; it doesn't matter whether you cry and repent or rejoice and thank God - the presence of peace distinguishes true spiritual experience from false spirituality. It is necessary to make a reservation that many beginners do not know how to correctly assess their mood, they can experience "peace" from non-spiritual reasons: for example, from the satisfaction of some of their passions. Let's say, a person ate deliciously on a holiday and some kind of calmness settles in his soul, it seems to him that this is the peace. It is clear that it has nothing to do with the grace-filled peace of Christ: put such a person in some kind of obedience unpleasant for him, and his "peace" immediately evaporates. There are, of course, coarser, not so innocent manifestations of passions, after which something similar to calmness sets in the soul of a person who has satisfied the passion. Suppose someone made him angry, he succumbed to the passion of anger and could not find peace for himself, until he finally expressed everything he thought to the one who outraged him. And only after that he calmed down, but this happened not because the peace of Christ reigned in his soul, but because the person satisfied his passion, was satiated with it. It can be very difficult for a beginner to discern such states; therefore, the advice to recognize the blessed states by peace in the soul is not for everyone. In addition, everything that I have said about the world of Christ is to a large extent theoretical concept that I have outlined so that you have a general idea of the difference between a true spiritual state and delusion.

There are, of course, outward signs of delusion, about which many holy fathers wrote, for example, Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov), and which are also mentioned in the Philokalia. Its manifestations are described: during prayer, a fragrance may appear, red lights may appear in front of the eyes in some kind of smoky environment. By the way, the famous yogi Vivekananda, who became known at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe and America, indicates exactly the same signs, calling them a manifestation of true spirituality. The description of the signs of delusion by the holy fathers and the list of signs of rapid spiritual progress, from the point of view of Vivekananda, completely coincide, only they are evaluated differently. The delusion can also be manifested by hearing individual sounds, as well as in wet sweetness: demons often use unchaste passion to deceive an ascetic who has never experienced real spiritual pleasure. They offer him to indulge in a lustful passion, acting in a subtle, hidden form, and the ascetic accepts this pleasure, since it is not expressed in coarse lust, considering such a refined, secret lust to be grace. Vanity and pride are also very comforting to a person, bringing him something akin to peace. This manifests itself in different ways: sometimes people want the approval of their own kind, and sometimes they succumb to pride, revel in it to such an extent that they look at human opinion with contempt; an inexperienced Christian, looking at one of such people, may even think that he is a humble and meek person, patiently enduring insults and humiliation. An example of such behavior is cited by the Venerable Abba Dorotheus: he once saw a young monk enduring humiliation and insults with great ease, and was surprised that at such a young age this monk had achieved extraordinary humility. Approaching him, he asked: "Tell me, brother, how do you manage to calmly react to the insults that they inflict on you?" And he replies: "No matter, let these mangy dogs bark." Then Abba Dorotheus, not wanting to condemn him, departed from him with the words: "This brother has found his way." But such a path, of course, is false: a person despises everyone and therefore human insults do not seem to exist for him. So pride, one of the signs of delusion, makes a person outwardly invulnerable.

Sometimes an apparent absence of passions is a sign of a false spiritual state. According to John Climacus, one passion (he meant, perhaps, first of all, pride) replaces all others in a person. Indeed, the demons retreat from the ascetic, so that he does not get worried, does not start a struggle. Then, when the seduction passes and he suddenly realizes that he was in delusion, a violent struggle often begins for him. Most often, this is struggle with unchaste thoughts, because it humiliates a person very much and involuntarily humbles him. The holy fathers say that it is better to struggle with manure than to succumb to pride. By "manure" they just meant the hideous lust.

I am coming to a very serious moment, and it is important for me that you understand me correctly: I speak only the most general, I cover only theoretical issues, and in specific cases everything needs to be decided with your guide. What external signs of delusion can we also name? Sometimes a person may even think of himself that he has unceasing prayer. I recently read the interesting memoirs of Archimandrite Raphael about the Glinsky elder Schema-Archimandrite Seraphim (Romantsov). In the book about the ascetics of the 50-60s of the XX century “In the mountains of the Caucasus”, the monk Mercury tells about one very young schema-nun who was made a nun secretly, who allegedly had unceasing prayer. And it turns out that this schema-nun once came to Schema-Archimandrite Seraphim, an experienced elder, whom I cannot but trust. The elder gave her some instructions, she did not accept any of them, and he understood that she was in delusion and had no unceasing prayer for a single day. The one who made her a nun was also in delusion. Father Seraphim also said that there is such a state (this time he meant another monk) that it seems to some man of fervent prayer that he has unceasing prayer, but in fact this is just a state close to delusion, because he used to the incessant repetition of prayer in the same way that another gets used to foul language, that is, it is not a grace-filled gift with him, but just a habit. An inexperienced person who does not know what unceasing prayer really is, does not even have a correct theoretical understanding of it, begins to think that he has it, and tells others. If such an inexperienced Christian meets with an experienced spiritual person and begins to tell him about his spiritual state (this lesson applies especially to old women), then the latter should question him in detail, because some seemingly insignificant little thing can show that in fact, a person simply does not understand what he is talking about, and only "fantasizes" about his experiences. Someone, out of ignorance, says something strange about himself and considers his state to be spiritual, while the other, on the contrary, having read the holy fathers and not knowing what they really meant, because of a highly developed imagination, identifies what he read with his state. He tells what he read and understood in the book in the words of the holy fathers, and not his own experiences. It turns out that such a person deceives himself and misleads other people, even those who are spiritually experienced. Therefore, when communicating with those who talk about some of their spiritual experiences, you need to have special attention and carefully ask even about trifles. One does not know how to describe - and the correct spiritual state is explained by him incorrectly, while the other, on the contrary, depicts a deceptive or simply imaginary experience, thanks to the terminology he has learned and assimilated, as something significant. One must be extremely careful not to get lost in such delicate and at the same time vital subjects.

I will not repeat in detail the teaching of Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov) that repentance is the best, safest state for the beginners. It is enough that in the parable of the publican and the Pharisee we see an example of both imaginary righteousness and spirituality, and true righteousness. The latter is based solely on repentance, so to speak - on prayerful repentance. Let's stick to this path: we will study the Holy Fathers, be extremely careful about our spiritual experiences, and always carefully check ourselves. Orthodox asceticism differs from the ascetic practice of the heterodox, for example, Catholics, especially from the ascetic teaching of other religions, precisely by such extreme caution, restraint, and common sense. It is necessary to have boldness, caution, and vigilance, then we will wisely make our way of salvation. To call it safe would be thoughtless - this path, on the contrary, is extremely dangerous, therefore wisdom, caution, common sense and at the same time zeal, boldness and fiery love for God are needed here.

See also questions after this conversation.

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