Orthodox America

Deliver Us from the Evil One  

Fair is foul and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air. (Three witches in opening scene of Macbeth) 

It used tobe that the subject of the occult was regarded by most people in this modern age as so much 'hocus pocus'. It conjured up images of gypsies gazing into crystal bails at summer carnivals, of shamans beating out dances in distant pagan lands, of fairy tale sorcerers and witches muttering incantations over steaming cauldrons--"Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..."--before vanishing into thin air. Today, however, one has only to browse through the local bookstore to be awakened to the chilling fact of occultism's rising popularity.

     Some books are descriptive: Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Ancient Egyptian Magic, A History of Secret Societies, The Serpent and the Rainbow: "the secret world of Haitian voodoo and zombies." There are also reference books: Zolar's Encyclopedia of Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge: "from the Kabbalah to the astral world, mind power and the mysteries of sex;" The book of Sacred Magic--"an indispensable source of occult knowledge." What is more shocking is the number of "how-to" books which indicate that the interest goes beyond intellectual curiosity: Invisibility--"mastering the art of vanishing;" The Modern Witch's Spell Book --"everything you need to know to cast spells, work charms and love magic, and achieve what you want in life through occult powers;" levitation--"what it is, how it works, how to do it." In the introduction to The Way of a Shaman, author Michael Harmon offers the reader "an opportunity to acquire the experience of shamanic power and to help yourself and others." The first exercise is "a simple journey of exploration down through the Tunnel into the Lower world."


The Games People Play

     Fantasy role-playing games (RPGs), especially popular among adolescents, invite participants into this same occult world, stimulating a thirst for power and fostering a morally neutral orientation. A company which specializes in RPG(appropriately called Chaosium, Inc) offers a variety of scenarios in games with titles such as "White Wolf--temples, demons and ships of war," "Stealer of Souls--a quest for vengeance," "Demon Magic," "Superworld," "Hawkmoon" --whose hero is "an incarnation of the Eternal Champion," one who "lives on all planes of existence, in all ages and trees, In"Storm-bringer" players can "aid Chaos or Law with your own warrior, sorcerer, thief or other adventurer... Carve out glory... Stop or hasten' the world's end." Because these RPGs are masked as creative entertainment, parents whose children are involved in them are rarely aware of the harmful--even fatal--effects they can have.

In fact, the model for aIl these games,"Dungeons and Dragons," has been linked to 62

murders and 26 suicides, as documented by the National Coalition on Television Violence (May 12, 1987). Described by one parent of a D&D adherent as an opiate "destroying the barrier between life and fantasy," the game comes with a Player's Handbook which lists a demonic cast of characters whom the players may either impersonate or employ. According to the NCTV report, "Much of the material comes from demonology including witchcraft, the occult, and evil monsters."

     D&D manuals contain "detailed descriptions of killing, including satanic human sacrifice ...and curses of insanity including suicidal and homicidal mania."

    Deaths linked with D&D provide grim evidence of its kinship with S atanism outside the realm of fantasy. Among those cases recorded by the NCTV:

    James Egbert, 17, was "a gifted student at Michigan State University where he played D&D. Before committing suicide he wrote: 'I'll give Satan my mind and power.'"

    Louis Solomon, 15, "tried to commit suicide when his stepfather took away his D&D materials. He later developed a fascination with devil worship.,' On March 12, 1986 he shot himself.

    Sean Sellers, 17, killed his mother, stepfather and a convenience store clerk. He "was heavily into D&D and Satanism which followed. He wrote a note in blood stating, 'I renounce God. I renounce Christ. I will serve only Satan.'"

    The secretive--or even illegal--nature of Satanist activity makes it very difficult to gather reliable data on the subject, but there is every indication that we are witnessing a terrifying resurgence of outright Satanism, no longer hiding behind ancient paganism, Far Eastern religions or psychic experimentation, but demonic beliefs and practices that are just that. Public awareness of this phenomenon was finally roused when, two years ago, ABC News aired a documentary on the subject before a stunned television audience. To quote from the transcript:

    "Across the country and Canada, satanic graffiti is turning up on public buildings and abandoned buildings, where police suspect secret meetings are being held by people calling themselves satanists, people who worship the devil. Most often found: the inverted five pointed satanic pentagram, the upside-down cross, the evil eye, references to Babylon and the devil's number, 666. Vandals often target churches ....

    "[Voice of commentator:] America is being affected. Nationwide we found that minor cases of satanic activity light up the map. Not a single state is unaffected. But even more frightening is the number of reported murders and suicides with satanic clues ....

    "We found that Satanism falls into three categories. One, self-styled Satanists: a growing number of young people who dabble in devil worship. Two, religious Satanists: people who publicly worship the devil, a right that's protected by Jaw. And three, satanic cults: what appear to be highly secretive groups committing criminal acts, including murder..."

    "[Psychiatrist:] Children are involved in graveyards, in crematorias, in funeral parlors, because one of the primary focuses of these people is death. Everything is attempted to be destroyed and killed in that child and in society, everything of goodness.

    "[Commentator:] Cannibalism. It's difficult to believe, but in every case we examined children described it.

    "[Grandmother:] The hearts were cutout, and the children were made to chew pieces of these children's hearts, pieces of their flesh .... The children have spoken about this in almost every instance. Also human feces, or drinking the urine or drinking human blood..." ("20/20" show//521, May 16, 1985)

    Two elements in particular should be clear from the above quotations: the perversion of innocence and the emphasis on death--both of which are unmistakable hallmarks of Luciferlan activity and should not be mistaken for anything else.

    It's no wonder that more than one writer and researcher has spoken out: "It is necessary to warn decisively anyone of any participation in black magic, real and faked. Don't touch these things, and avoid like the plague all those who are engaged in it. Even if it were all trickery--as it often is--these are still dirty and savage things. They are so even if they are childish. They lead only to distortion and degradation of the soul. And when real powers appear, the results for the participants are indescribably terrible." (Douglas Hunt, Researches in the Sphere of the Occult)


"Real" Powers of Darkness

    What is behind this resurgence of Satanism? How can one explain an 'enlightened' society's growing fascination with the world of darkness? How can one explain such spiritual recklessness? The impact of the well known German legend "Faust"--in which a man surrenders his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, knowledge and magical powers--once rested on the horrifying realization of the hero' s self- inflicted damnation. Today, many people are reenacting the same scenario in real life. Have they no understanding of the eternal consequences? Dare they identify with the shocking truth expressed by a 19th century satanist in the following poem:

Thus heaven I’ve forfeited,
I know it full well.
My soul, once true to God,
Is chosen for hell.

(The author? Karl Marx, as cited in Richard Wurmbrand, Was Karl Marx a Satanist?, p. 2) 

    To answer these questions we must begin with a correct understanding of Satan' s realm and its "principalities and powers," the rulers of darkness, their nature and activity.

    We know from Scripture that evil had no part in God's creation. Ail the inhabitants of the heavenly realm, the world of angels, were created as pure, fleshless beings "ordained by God to be the most perfect reflections, of His grandeur and glory, with inseparable participation in His blessedness" (Fr. Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, p.120). They were created individual, personal and rational.

    Of their life before Adam and Eve we know one extremely important thing: there was a great rebellion in their ranks. One-third (according to some Fathers; others say one- half) began to believe that they were somehow "self-existent" and "self-created." They were encouraged in this delusion by one of the greatest of all the angels, a cherub whose name has come down to us as Lucifer, also called Satan or Belial, In a revelation to the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord God Himself addresses Lucifer and describes his former glory:

 Thou wast..full of wisdom, perfect in beauty. Thou wast in the pleasures of the paradise of God; every precious stone was thy covering…Thou wast a cherub stretched out and protecting, and I set thee in the holy mountain of God…Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation, until iniquity was found in thee. (Esek. 28:11-18)

And Isaiah:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning?…Thou saidst in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant…I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High! (Is. 14:12-14)

In the words of the poet, Milton, this 'wicked cherub shouted out: "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven!"

     Under the leadership of Archangel Michael the good angels defeated the rebellious angels in a war. Satan "was cast out into the earth, and his angels were east out with him... neither was their place found any more in heaven" (Rev. 12:7-8). Where did they go? According to the testimony of Scripture, they dwell in "high places" (Eph. 6:12). This is also translated as "under the heaven," Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov defines this more clearly when he writes: "The spirit s who refused obedience to God...creep over the earth and fill the space between earth and heaven; whence they are called the spirits of the air, since the air is their habitat" (Arena, ch. 43). Indeed, St. Paul refers to Satan as the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2).

     The Holy Fathers describe the demons as immaterial and sleepless beings which "differ much among themselves" (St. Anthony the Great), i.e., "there are ruling demons and demons that are subordinate" (St. Macarius the Great), Ali these demons are united in one common purpose: "to destroy men's souls through word, act and thought" (St. Hilarion). What provoked such undying hatred?

     In place of the fallen angels, Bishop Ignatius explains, "God created new intelligent creatures--men. He put them in Paradise, which was placed in the lowest heaven and had originally been governed by the fallen cherub [Lucifer] himself. But Paradise was now under the surveillance of the new creature, man. It is quite understandable that the new creature thereupon became the object of envy and hatred on the part of the fallen angel and his fallen companions. Led by their leader, the rejected spirits made the attempt to subvert the newly created human creatures and make them their partners in the fall .... They succeeded in their purpose..."


The Father of Lies

    By persuading Adam and Eve that by disobeying God and eating of the "forbidden fruit" they could "be as God" (Gen. 3:5), the Serpent (Satan) convinced them to share in his own prideful sin: that they are self-existent; not creatures, but gods.

    At this, a terrible change took place in man: his "soul became like that of the fallen spirits, while his body became like that of an unreasoning animal. The crime committed by the fallen angels toward men ultimately decided the fate of the fallen angels. God’s grace completely left them and they became confirmed in their fall. They, being spirits, were now destined to persist in thoughts and feelings exclusively bodily and material ." (Bishop Ignatius, quoted in Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave, by Archimendrite Panteleimon, ch. 6)

    Because man fell "unconsciously, unintentionally,'' being "deceived and seduced," God took pity on man and, in His unspeakable goodness "gave fallen man a Redeemer and redemption. However, redeemed man has also been given freedom either to avail himself of the redemption granted him and return to Paradise. OR to refuse redemption and remain in the company of the fallen angels. The time assigned to man To express his mind and choice iq the whole of our life on earth." (The Arena, ch, 43)


Evil Knowledge

     The sin of the fallen angels, to which Adam and Eve had also succumbed, Pride-"I am self-existent, self-sufficient, a 'God'" --then became the fountainhead of all sin, all error, in the race of man. It became the great "secret" of the Evil One, the "forbidden knowledge" or gnosis, carefully preserved in the Kingdom of Hell and given to any man wanting this "wisdom ." this became the great rival to God's own revelation to man and was, according to Scripture and the Holy Fathers, transmitted in the following way:

     "After the death of righteous Abel, in order that the whole human race might not spring from a wicked fratricide, Seth was born in the place of his brother." For many generations his descendents avoided ail contact with the descendents of Cain so as not to be polluted by the wickedness of an evil offspring. Eventually, however, the sons of Seth, who were the 'sons of God' (Gen. 6:2) (or, in some translations, the 'angels of God) became inflamed with desire for the daughters of Cain' s descendents. Taking them as wives, they were led astray from their innate holiness, being taught by these women the wickedness of their fathers.

     After the line of Seth "had been mingled with the evil generation [of Cain], it drew aside at the suggestion of devils to profane and harmful uses...taught by the curious arts of wizards and enchantments and magical superstitions, teaching its posterity to forsake the holy worship of the Divinity and to honor and worship either the elements of fire or the demons of the air." (St. John Cassian, Conferences)

    The demonic origin of magical arts is also indicated by St. Macarius: Once Adam "had been deceived, he surrendered his lordship [over the material creation] to his deceiver. For this reason sorcerers and magicians, through the use of diabolic energy become-with God's allowance--'miracle'-workers': they have power over poisonous snakes and they challenge fire and water, as was exemplified by the followers of Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses (cf. Ex. ch.7-8), and by Simon who resisted the chief Apostle Peter (cf. Acts 8:18-24)."


The Origin of Paganism and Heresy

   All of the above is but a foundation for what follows, for it was precisely this sinful concourse between men and demons that gave birth to all of the old pagan religions--that of the ancient Egyptians, Hinduism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, the "Mystery Schools" of Greece and Rome, and so forth (which were but forerunners for today's "secular humanism" on the one hand, and outright demonism on the other). For this reason the Holy Fathers testified with one voice:

The gods of the pagans are demons. (Ps. 95:5)

     Thus began what we rightly call today Satanism, the worship of self, of ego, the denial of God's almighty and sovereign lordship, the "itching" after forbidden knowledge and god-like power over both animate and inanimate creation. Hence, the early gnostic heretics and those others who composed their own "mysteries" and scriptures, all of which are based upon a desire for "superior" knowledge, to "know better than others," to be, in fact, independent—that is, "self-existent" --from the only channel of all grace, wisdom and truth as established by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and clearly revealed by Him to be in His Church. Thus also those many secret fraternal organizations which have come into existence through the centuries-several of them authentically quite old, and many still in existence today--: the Knights Templars, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Theosophists, and numerous others, all predicated on an anti-Christian secret knowledge not given to the uninitiated masses, a "wisdom of the ages," which, they claim, "the Church" had suppressed out of fear, ignorance, or bigotry.

    In fact, these fraternal sects have indeed preserved something ancient--but it is not the wisdom of Almighty God; rather, it is the gnosis of old, devised by the ancient Enemy, the Lord of Evil and Prince of Darkness himself, who knows well how to flatter the pride of mortals with a whisper: "You shall be as God!" Truly, the Church knows this adversary well.

    Outside the Orthodox tradition, however, this correct understanding of the spiritual world was lost or corrupted. Already in the Renaissance there had developed a very sentimental and carnal idea of the angelic kingdom, embodied in the fat baby cupids--putti --carved all over European churches and cathedrals. As Western civilization passed through the Age of Enlightenment, its perception of spiritual reality grew even darker: the devil and his minions were consigned to the realm of allegory, while their benevolent counterparts invisibly shepherded little children through dangerous forests in the manner of a fairytale. Although today's Christian Evangelicals appear to be developing a more sober view, these rather vague and distorted conceptions remain popular, while many people today do not accept the objective reality of angels or demons at all.


The Pleasure of Demons

    Here, then, is the grand delusion of the Father of Lies, for what better way to overcome one's victim than to convince him that his adversary is but a figment of his imagination, the superstition of a less 'enlightened' era. Indeed, it is all part of the Evil One's artful staging of the Apostasy. Astral travel, witchcraft, ouiji boards, tarot cards, Voo Doo --most people become involved "just for kicks ," or to provide their spiritually impoverished lives with a new 'dimension,' or to acquire extraordinary powers--which the demons readily supply. They lust after this "forbidden fruit," this "secret knowledge," unaware of its poisonous effect. Believing themselves to be masters of their own lives, they unwittingly cooperate with the forces of darkness and fall into the invisible snare of the devil, "taken captive by him at his will" (II Tim. 2:6). [1]

    It is hard to understand how anyone can read the Scriptures and fail to grasp the existent reality of the powers of darkness. In the Gospels there is Christ's temptation in the wilderness, there are many examples of demon possession and the casting out of demons, a power Christ conferred on his disciples (Luke 9:1). The Epistles contain further teaching on the nature of demons and how the unseen warfare is to be waged against them. "Resist the devil," writes St. James, "and he will flee from you." "Put on the whole armor of God," exhorts St. Paul, ".,.above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked"(Eph. 6:11,17). And St. Peter warns: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).

    The Orthodox tradition has preserved this very real sense of the aerial realm of spirits, their artful devices and their influence among men--an understanding which the Church received from Divine revelation and from experience through its almost 2,000--year history. There is, for example, the life of St. Cyprian (+c. 268) the former sorcerer who was, as he himself later related, "a faithful slave of the prince of hell with whom he conversed face to face" (Orthodox Word, #70, Sept.-Oct. 1976). The Lives of the Desert Fathers contain many descriptions of demons who appeared to the saints in visible forms, whether as hideous wild beasts, as in the Life of St. Anthony, or in the guise of angels, as in the Life of his disciple St. Macarius the Great (+390). A vivid picture of the spiritual warfare waged over men's souls is presented in the Life of St. Andrew, Fool-for-Christ (10th c.), who saw this in a vision.

    According to Orthodox tradition, man is assisted in this warfare by a holy guardian angel, given by God to each soul at Baptism. "So too," writes Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, the Prince of Darkness "assigns to each person one of the evil spirits, who follows that person everywhere and tries to draw him into every form of sin." (Arena, ch. 43)

    The Orthodox Christian, by simply paying attention to his morning and evening prayers, can develop a strong consciousness of the unseen warfare and of the very present reality both of the demons and of the guardian angels: "Deliver me from...every attack of the devil"..."Drive away my foes who defeat me...expose me not to the pleasure of demons"..."May Satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold"..."O Holy Angel, interceding for my wretched soul,..give no place for the subtle demon to master me." (Jordanville Prayer Book)

    Because the demons seldom appear visibly it takes great effort to develop the spiritual sensitivity necessary to discern their specific influence on one's soul. Sometimes, however, they reveal themselves quite dramatically, and there are numerous accounts of exorcisms performed even today which testify to this. Often the possessed will emit bloodcurdling screams and manifest a supernatural physical strength, just like the Gadarene described in the Gospel. It is very sobering to witness, or even to read about such cases of possession and deliverance, which so powerfully attest to the reality of demonic activity. During these exorcism services, the demons frequently express their anger at being forced to abandon their victim. They are possessive of those whom they regard as "theirs," as illustrated by the following incident which occurred in this country some fifteen years ago.

    A young man of Russian descent arrived at seminary to begin his first year of studies. He went robed, tired after his long journey, but could not fall asleep. A sulphuric odor in the room made him vomit. He then became aware of a dark blob with multiple green eyes at the foot of his bed. The normal parameters of time and space seemed to disappear. “Go away,” cam a voice. “Leave this place!” The' young man began to pray but the blob persisted until finally the young man fell asleep.

    When he reported this demonic visitation to the dean the next morning, he was asked if he had ever engaged in any occult activity. In fact, both sides of his family had for several generations been seriously involved in black magic. The young man's grandfather could 'fly,' and he himself had been taught to cast spells and to read the past and future from cards--for which he had exhibited a natural talent, although he had abandoned the practice some years ago. The dean explained that the demon had, in all likelihood, been sent Lo lay claim to his soul, as part of "the family," and to prevent him from pursuing a life dedicated to Christ. Fortunately, the ruse was unsuccessful.


Guarding Against Evil

    Today's growing popularity of the occult and the evident resurgence of Satanism is a renewed confirmation of the need for "unseen warfare" that we must constantly and vigilantly wage or, a day to day basis. Demons do not need to wait upon the invocation of a witch or a wizard in order to attack us and try to find some slight foothold in our lives. We see the results of their activity everywhere, every day.

    It is wrong to assume that an Orthodox baptism is a sufficient safeguard against demonic influence. (It is a fact, for example, that several members of the rock group KISS --Kids in Satan's Service--belonged to Russian Orthodox families.) It is important, therefore, to consciously and prayerfully make use of those weapons provided by the Church since ancient times: to receive regularly the Holy Mysteries, to be diligent in prayer and fasting, to renew the priestly blessing of one' s home each year after Theophany, to partake each morning of some prosphora and Holy Water, to make the Sign of the Cross whenever the occasion calls for it-whether setting off in the car or beginning some simple task at home. And it is vitally important to teach these pious habits to our children: to encourage them to invoke the protection of their Guardian Angel, to pray with them at bedtime and bless them--and the corners of their room--with the sign of the Cross as they go to sleep, and also when they leave the house for school. 

Where Is It All Going.

    The great event for which Satan and his angels have been waiting throughout human history is drawing near: the coming of Antichrist. To quote from the late Hieromonk Seraphim's important book, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future:

    "In our age of apostasy preceding the manifestation of Antichrist, the devil has been loosed for a time (Apoc. 20:7),..to gather in his hellish harvest of those souls who 'received not the love of the truth' (II Thes. 2:10).

    "How much, then, must Orthodox Christians walk in the fear of God, trembling lest they lose His grace, which by no means is given to everyone, but only to those who hold the true Faith, lead a life of Christian struggle, and treasure the grace of God which leads them heavenward ....          Surely the last times are near, when there will come spiritual deception so persuasive as to deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect (Matt. 24:24)..."

Little children, it is the last hour! (I John 2:18)

[1]  To protect Orthodox from being influenced by such views, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov (+1867) wrote a whole book on the subject (volume three of his collected works, in Russian, Tuzov edition, 1886) in which he amply demonstrated how far indeed are the naive images of Western Christians from the Orthodox understanding, which derives from Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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