On Spiritual Deception

From the time of man’s fall, the devil has had free access to him. The devil is entitled to this access, for, through obedience to him man has voluntarily submitted to his authority and rejected obedience to God. However, God has redeemed man. To the redeemed man He has given the freedom to submit either to God or to the devil; and that this freedom may manifest itself without any compulsion, the devil has been permitted access to man. It is quite natural that the devil makes every effort to keep man in his former subjection to him, or yet to enslave him even more thoroughly. To achieve this, he implements his primordial and customary weapon — falsehood. He strives to deceive and delude us, counting on our state of self-delusion. He stimulates our passions, our sick inclinations. He invests their pernicious demands with an attractive appearance and strives to entice us to indulge them. However, he that is faithful to the Word of God will not permit himself to do so; he will restrain the passions and thus repulse the enemy’s assaults (see Jas. 4:7); struggling against his own self-deception under the guidance of the Gospel, subduing his passions, and thus gradually destroying the influence of the fallen spirits on himself, he will by stages pass from the state of deception to the realm of truth and freedom (see Jn 8:32), the fullness of which will be given through the overshadowing of divine grace. He that is not faithful to Christ’s teaching, who follows his own will and knowledge, will submit to the enemy, and will pass from a state of self-deception into a state of demonic deception, will lose the remnant of his freedom, and in the end he will become totally enslaved to the devil. The state of those who are demonically deluded varies, depending upon the passion by which the particular individual is deluded and enslaved, and corresponding to the degree to which he is enslaved by that passion. And all those who have fallen into demonic delusion, i.e., those who, through the development of their own self-delusion, have entered into fellowship with the devil and have been enslaved by him, are temples and instruments of the demons, victims of eternal death, of life in the dungeons of hell.

Disciple: Enumerate for me the types of demonic delusion which result from the improper exercise of prayer.

Elder: All the forms of demonic delusion to which the athlete of prayer is subject arise from the fact that repentance has not been set as the foundation of prayer, that repentance has not been made the source, the soul, the goal of prayer. St. Gregory the Sinaite says: “Should anyone fancy to attain unto exalted states of prayer with a self-confidence based on a conception of one’s own worth, and has acquired not true zeal, but that of the devil, him wilt the devil easily enmesh in his snares as his slave.” Everyone who hastens to the wedding banquet of the Son of God, not in the clean and radiant garments wrought by repentance, but rather in the old rags of sinfulness and self-delusion, will be cast into the outermost darkness, into demonic deception. “I counsel thee,” the Savior says to one whom He calls to the mystical priesthood, “to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness not appear; and to anoint thine eyes [of sense and the eyes of thy mind] with [the] salve [of tears], that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:18-19). Repentance and everything that comprises it, such as: contrition or travail of spirit, lamentation of heart, tears, self-reproach, remembrance and foreboding of death, the judgment of God and the everlasting torments, the awareness of God’s presence, fear of God — are all gifts of God, gifts of great worth, gifts which are basic and represent our assurance of loftier and eternal gifts. The latter you can never receive unless you have received the former. “However great the life we may lead,” says St. John of the Ladder, “we may count it stale and spurious, if we have not acquired a contrite heart” (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step VII, 64). Repentance, contrition of spirit, and lamentation are signs which attest to the correctness of our feat of prayer. Their absence, on the other hand, is a sign of inclination towards false direction, self-delusion, deception and barrenness. One or the other, delusion or sterility, is the inevitable consequence of the incorrect exercise of prayer, and the incorrect exercise of prayer is inextricably bound up with self-deception.

Page 2 of 5 | Previous page | Next page