Category Archives: Conversion

Convertitis: A Spiritual Illness

Introduction

42 years of experience and observation of many nationalities and their psychologies have led me to several conclusions regarding the neophyte and the problems of integration connected with conversion. And integration is vital here, for the opposite of integration is disintegration and nobody wants that. Two particular problems arise with regard to conversion. Against a distorting hothouse background of emotional zeal, these are: weakness of faith, and so insecurity in it, and lack of time spent as an Orthodox, and so inexperience in the faith. These result in the following specific issues:

Ritualism

Ritualism is an attachment to externals. Such superficiality can be linked even to superstition and idolatry. Thus, the occasional male neophyte who thinks that growing a long beard and long hair and wearing prayer beads on his wrist, like a monk who does that but under obedience, is going to make him Orthodox, is mistaken. Look around at all the Orthodox who have been there for generations – they do not dress like that and they are still here after 40/50/60/70/80 years. Similarly, the occasional female neophyte who wears elaborate long dresses and huge veils on her head and the same prayer-beads on her wrist is not necessarily Orthodox. Our faith depends on what we are inside, not on external ‘burnt offerings’ and what we dress in: ‘Make in me a clean heart, O Lord’. ‘A humble and contrite heart, O Lord, wilt Thou not despise’.

Dogmatization

Another convert sign is the dogmatization of details. Thus, for a few converts the Six Days of Creation must be interpreted literally as six 24-hour periods, otherwise their faith is worthless. And yet the Church has never set such literalism as dogma. Six days may indeed mean six 24-hour periods, but we should not be ignorant of other interpretations or, above all, that most of the Church Fathers are completely silent on the subject because it is so unimportant – the salvation of our souls does not depend on such details. An even more dangerous dogmatizing tendency is the ‘starets-ization’ and ‘spiritual fatherization’ of the priest who listens to their confessions. This is a form of self-flattery. They are saying: ‘My ‘spiritual father’ is a holy elder (they often prefer the Non-English words starets or geronda’ in order to mystify), so therefore I am too’. This is spiritual delusion.

Narrowness

It is notable that some converts of a Protestant (= literalist) background initially quote canons as they used to quote Bible verses – aggressively, rigidly, mercilessly, sometimes in order to humiliate others and justify themselves. This is pride. It shows a lack of experience, that in certain pastoral situations we have to react differently, it shows an ignorance of human realities. Recently, for example, we came across the case of a man who had been thrown out of a parish by a recently-ordained, untrained, convert priest, because he had started living with his fiancée before he married. It had needless, negative consequences. Such narrowness soon becomes sectarian, and leads to people cutting themselves off from the Church, so that they become big fish in a very little pond. Here is an example of narcissism, the spiritual illness of self-love.

Nationalism

Another convert tendency is to fall into nationalism, ignoring the multinational reality of life in the Church. Coming into contact with other nationalities, they revert to nationalism in a self-defence mechanism. If there is no evolution, this can bring spiritual death because nationalism is an attachment to this world, worldliness, which is placed above the Kingdom of God. All unrepentant nationalists die out because they do not pass on their prejudices to the next generation. Nationalism can be a devotion to any country. Sadly, some of the worst cases that we have seen are among certain ex-Anglicans, who not only freeze out other nationalities, but also other classes, for Anglicanism as a State-founded and State-Church ideology is profoundly middle-class and pro-Establishment. Specifically Anglican nationalism leads not just to a nationalist club, but to the exclusive class club and the clique.

Judgementalness

The next convert trend we can notice is censoriousness, negativity and the condemnation of all creative initiative (this is born from an insecurity of faith). These tendencies are all coloured by phariseeism, that is, the clinging on to irrelevant details. Spiritually, we should judge (= condemn) only ourselves, not others, for the salvation of others depends firstly on the salvation of ourselves. If we cannot save ourselves, then we can most certainly not save others. And God is the only Just Judge. This negativity comes from the hardening of the heart and can infect older people especially. We are often saved from it by the presence of young people and children.

Intellectualism

The intellectual convert may sometimes be prone to dreaminess, disincarnatedness, the abstract. They may reduce everything to a mere idea. If so, their practice of Orthodoxy will not last long, indeed their practice may never happen as lapse comes very soon. Talking about the Church may be their forte, but without experience, without standing and praying at the services, without looking after and bringing up children in church, without the hardship of fasting, such talk is irrelevant. In some cases, they may continue in the Church for some time and may evolve a whole ideology of dreams and fantasies, but these will not be connected with reality and will never lead to anything concrete. With time the intellectual always disappears because it is all words and not deeds.

Conclusion

The good news about convertitis is that it can be and is healed, with time, patience and compassion. People come and people go, but there are those who stay the course. These are the ones who are not ‘religious’ (part of a system or ideology), but are ‘spiritual’, that is, they have feelings. They are those who are sincere, patient and ready to make humble sacrifices and they are eventually healed, sometimes even quite swiftly. We should always recall that it is pride that goes before the fall (the Latin word for fall is ‘lapse’, as in ‘collapse’). And sincerity, patience and humility do not lead to lapse, but to firm and long-term commitment.

The Battle for the Soul of Europe

I am sometimes asked why the Church has not so far proved very attractive to native Western Europeans. Yes, it is true that since the 1960s in particular, small numbers of native Western Europeans have joined the Orthodox Church. However, the total number throughout Western Europe amounts to only a few thousand, certainly no more than 10,000. And of those many swiftly lapsed and quite a few others could not in the end accept authentic Orthodox Christianity and devised instead a sort of adapted Uniatism (in Catholic-culture countries) and Protestantism with icons (in Protestant-culture countries). With their Roman Catholic and Protestant cultural background, such unintegrated newcomers inevitably formed their own inward-looking groups, separated from the Orthodox mainstream.

The answer to the question why the Church has not proved attractive is precisely because so many native Western Europeans have generally been unable to free themselves from the cultural conditioning and ethnocentric prejudices of their Non-Orthodox background. It is interesting to see that some Americans at least have relatively fewer problems in this domain; they are sometimes more flexible and less attached to a Non-Orthodox cultural identity. Nevertheless, this difficulty in accepting pure Christianity comes about because the greatest failing of Western culture is to think itself superior to all else; how, in these circumstances, can people of Western cultural background acquire the humility to admit that their culture is mistaken and that it must be purified by repentance?

Thus, I have seen case after case over the last forty years or so of Western academics in particular, suffering from towering pride in their own culture, who refuse to accept a ‘foreign culture’, which they despise as in some way ‘oriental’. They prefer to stay in their semi-Christian, semi-pagan world of pale-faced ‘Jesuses’. But Christ was an oriental, He was not a European. The tragedy of such a West is that through its ethnic pride and institutional racism it puts itself above God and His Church, above the Truth. Such is the situation of Old Europe. But Old Europe is dying or is even already dead. Only a few old people go to church, the young have abandoned it; Catholicism, discredited by papist persecutions and now pedophilia, has had its thousand-year day, and Protestantism, discredited by past intolerance and narrow Puritanism, has had its five-hundred-year day. The world has moved on. A New Europe emerged long ago, within a generation of its Second World War.

This New Europe is by and large a continent of faithlessness to Christ. Yes, it still has its museums and medieval buildings, but this is not for living, this is for tourists. The New Europe has been shaped and is still being shaped by two forces, two sets of belief. The first force is the mass Secularism of the USA, the Coca Cola culture which began appearing in Europe as soon as its first bout of suicide, the First World War, had taken place, for instance in 1920s jazz; there followed a second wave during the Second World War with chewing gum and the rest; a third wave of ‘pop’ and jeans came in the 1960s; a fourth wave of ‘globalism’ (= Americanization) has come since 1989; and in the last few years a fifth wave of the chaos of mass immigration has appeared in Western Europe and is now submerging several countries and their traditional identities.

Modern culture is the soulless culture of concrete, glass and plastic. Its hideous and inhuman post-War architecture is all about this, as is its music, art, furniture, its whole culture. I can recall sitting in a café in Cambridge with an ‘antediluvian’ White Russian émigré in 1975. In the middle of the conversation, he suddenly said: ‘This place is not evil, it is just spiritually empty’. His definition was precise. However, as we said at that time, nature abhors a vacuum; wherever there is no prayer, spiritual emptiness is formed and that is always filled by the demons. And that is exactly what has happened over the last forty years. At first they began abolishing marriage and legalizing pornography. Very quickly they invented a huge and very profitable abortion industry, legalizing child murder, and after that there appeared perversions and pedophilia. And now the countries that resist these sinister and evil trends, mainly in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, are being forced, like the Ukraine, through economic sanctions (warfare) to accept them.

However, there is a second force that is at work in shaping the New Europe. This is Islamism. Greedy local industrialists began inviting masses of poor Muslims to settle in Europe in the 1950s. Their cheap, hard-working labour could be exploited to make vast profits. However, what was once a stream of Turks in Germany, Algerians in France, Pakistanis in Britain and Moroccans in Belgium has become a flood. Through mass immigration the one per cent Muslim minority has become five per cent, ten per cent, twenty per cent and in some European cities fifty per cent and more, forming there a townscape of minarets and also of terrorism. There is no greater example of this dual invasion than the recent atrocity at the airport in Brussels: a concrete, glass and plastic monstrosity, indistinguishable from any other modern airport, was ripped apart by Islamist suicide bombers. New Europe.

The problem is of course not in the relatively innocent ‘cultural Islam’ of elderly Muslims, but in the form of militant Islam, Islamism, which is practised today by a good many of the young, exasperated by the recent Western aggressions and war crimes in the Muslim world. Rather like Judaism and all too often like medieval Catholicism and post-medieval Protestantism, Islam never knew that God is Love and that it is our task to love our enemies and forgive. It is a militant and aggressive religion, especially in its fundamentalist Sunni Islamist form, as spread and financed by the great ally of the West, Wahhabite Saudi Arabia. Western Europe is thus sandwiched between aggressive US Secularism, as anti-Christian as you can get, and Islamism, with its fundamentalist god of hatred and revenge, sandwiched between MacWorld and Jihad.

Only by referring back to its native roots, its soul, can the New Europe find its way between these two extremes and so survive. However, as Old Europe is dying and dead, where can it retrieve its roots? The answer is in the Church, in the uncompromised ascetic, canonical and liturgical Tradition of Orthodox Christianity, that which patterned the distant past of Western Europe and today can be expressed in Orthodoxy in the native languages of Western Europe. Like the distant past of the first millennium, the future also is Orthodox. True, some may say that Orthodoxy has not worked so far, only a few thousand native Europeans have approached the Church. However, most of those Europeans, though by no means all, came from the Old Europe and brought baggage with them, making them unable to convert in full and even leading many to lapse. Today we are dealing nearly wholly with people from the New Europe.

The New Europeans are blank sheets. You do not need to spend time explaining to them the sometimes subtle differences between the Church and heterodoxy. They have no idea what heterodoxy is. All is much easier and, as far as I can tell, though the New Europeans are fewer, they are more serious. Devoid of cultural baggage, that is, devoid of pride and prejudice, they adapt much more quickly to the Church and Her Orthodox Christian Faith than the Old Europeans ever did. True, some predict that the time will come when direct persecution will start in Western Europe and we will not, for reasons of ‘health and safety’ (= hatred of the Church) be allowed to baptize (unlike Jews and Muslims, who will still be allowed to circumcise – that presents no problem, it seems). Well, then we shall charter ships and go to Russia and to freedom and baptize persecuted Europeans there.

Some may think that we are talking about a distant future. Sadly, I think not. The present extraordinary acceleration towards Antichrist suggests that we may well see such a situation even in our lifetimes. We only have to think of the social and moral transformations that have happened in Western Europe in the last twenty-five years, let alone the last fifty. Even older films of our ancestors make them look as though they came from another planet. They would probably not even recognize present-day society as their own. What will the future bring? We cannot be certain. Of course, mass repentance, however unlikely, is still possible. We do not despair, but live in hope, for miracles do happen. Old Europe has gone, but the New Europe can still choose, between MacWorld, Jihad and the Church of God.

From Recent Correspondence (Lent 2016)

Q: Why is there so much opposition among the Orthodox faithful to the forthcoming Council in Crete?

A: Because it promises to be merely a politicized meeting of bishops. First of all, how can you say that you are having a Council when you do not know if it is a Council, because you do not know if the Holy Spirit will be present? We must understand that a meeting can only become a Council if the Holy Spirit is present. This is why meetings only become Councils on their reception by the people of God, who recognize the inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit. So far this looks like a meeting of bishops, with the US, the EU and the Vatican in the background, which is not Pan-Orthodox because it does not include all the bishops or, for the moment, even representatives of all the Local Churches. To call a meeting a Council before the event is presumptious and pretentious, even more so when you call it ‘Great and Holy’.

Secondly, how can you have a Council when only a small selected minority of Orthodox bishops have been invited? Thirdly, how can you have a Council when the most important question, the calendar issue, has been removed from the agenda? Fourthly, how can you have a Council when several Local Churches or authoritative voices in Local Churches have been raised in particular against the anti-dogmatic contradictions in the proposed important document on relations with Non-Orthodox? Finally, many have been disturbed by the date of the opening of this meeting: 16/06/16. It contains the triple six of Antichrist. How could the organizers, so blind to any transparency, also be so provocative as to start the meeting on that date, so greatly perturbing the faithful?

Q: You say that the US, the EU and the Vatican are in the background. What exactly do they want?

A: All thisworldly institutions want an aggiornamento of the Church, like that which Roman Catholicism underwent in the 1960s. They want to introduce into the Church secularism, humanism, new calendarism, homosexual marriage, banning fasting and monasticism. In other words, they want to destroy the Church, they want a modernist, spiritually toothless and spineless Church, degutted of ascetic life, spirituality and the sacred, so that they can adapt the Church to their worldly agenda, reducing it to a mere human institution, as they have done elsewhere. And who is their prince, the prince of this world? Satan.

Q: So you are against this meeting?

A: I did not say that. Let us wait and see. This meeting could produce schism, given the arrogant lack of consultation by its organizers with the monasteries, parish clergy and people, with the people of God. For example, why have they not invited a distinguished monastic elder from each Local Church to the meeting to represent the people of God? And, as I said, a meeting, however unpromising, can become a Council. All depends on the Holy Spirit. Man proposes, but God disposes. Sadly, for the moment, all we have seen is bureaucratic men proposing.

Q: You have reported elsewhere the opening of the Russian Cathedral in Paris in the autumn. What are your hopes?

A: Our hopes are that the statement of Patriarch Alexei II thirteen years ago will at last be realized. In other words, we hope that this will be the foundation stone of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe and that that will be the foundation of a future Local Church.

Q: So you want to see in Western Europe a kind of European OCA?

A: Before answering, I should perhaps say that what I want is not really relevant, what is important is what God wants. I will answer only because you have asked.

Not at all, we do not want another OCA. The OCA was a failure firstly because its foundation was politicized, being founded during the Cold War, secondly because it was granted autocephaly unilaterally without consultation with the other far more numerous dioceses of other Local Churches on the same territory, and thirdly because it was founded on compromises of ascetic, liturgical and canonical culture, caused by its protestantization, putting American culture above the Church. This meant that a great many English-speaking Orthodox in the USA, the ones whom it was allegedly designed for, simply ignored it. Personally, if I lived in the USA, I would not belong to the OCA. That is no judgement on the many sincere and pious people who do belong to it or the good work that parts of it do, this is merely a personal statement.

Q: So what do you want to see in Western Europe?

A: What we want to see is what we want to see everywhere, including in North America. That is, quite simply, a Local Church that is fully Orthodox, spiritually pure, politically independent and faithful to the Tradition, but which freely celebrates, whenever pastorally necessary, in the local language and venerates the local saints. What could be simpler? And yet human beings with their compromising political cults or narcissistic personality cults make it all so complicated.

Q: To come back to the OCA, what do you make of the concelebration between Patriarch Bartholomew and Metr Tikhon of the OCA?

A: There are modernist, political dissidents in the OCA who want to become a sub-department of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in some special American Metropolia, just like the Rue Daru group of ex-Russians in Paris, the ex-Sourozhian schismatics in England, or some schismatic Diaspora Ukrainians. It seems to me that a battle is going on between the two factions there, the modernists who want to leave for Constantinople and those with at least some sense of the Tradition who want to stay as a group under the protection of the Russian Church. Personally, I have always thought that a split is inevitable, with all the parishes in Alaska and most in Canada and Pennsylvania around St Tikhon’s, returning to the Russian Church, perhaps within ROCOR, and the others, like those at St Vladimir’s, going over to the Greeks. That would be logical and at last clear up the canonical anomaly once and for all.

Q: The OCA was founded nearly two generations ago. Why has it taken so much longer to begin even thinking about a Local Church in Western Europe?

A: So much longer? We have been thinking about it for thirty years and more! On the other hand, you do not do things prematurely. In my view, the OCA was premature – it should have remained a Metropolia, English-speaking but faithful to Russian Orthodox Tradition, waiting for freedom in Russia, which came 20 years after its independence.

The main problem in Western Europe has been the delay caused by the Paris schism over eighty years ago. The divisive defection of Russophobic aristocrats and modernist intellectuals from the Russian Tradition to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a self-invented ‘tradition’ meant that the development of an authentically Orthodox Local Church was greatly delayed because the Russian Orthodox presence was so weakened by their disaffection. For instance, although (or because) the Constantinople Parisians are bankrupt, they are still occupying the (smallish) 19th-century Russian Cathedral in Paris, and therefore a new Cathedral and seminary have had to built and equipped at vast expense and with great political complications.

Q: Does the Church Outside Russia, ROCOR, have a role in the construction of this Metropolia in Western Europe?

A: That depends on the leadership of ROCOR, not on mere parish priests like me.

Q: Does that answer mean that in Western Europe at least ROCOR will become dependent on the Church inside Russia?

A: Not necessarily. Everything is still possible. There are parishes in Western Europe dependent on the Church inside Russia and parishes dependent on the Church Outside Russia that are identical in ethos. Some, sadly, are definitely not identical in ethos because of the hangover from the Soviet past despite transfers of controversial clergy out of Europe by Moscow in the last few years. In ROCOR we patiently wait for that vestigial ethos to die out, as it is dying out. Once it has died out altogether, convergence will come.

Q: You mean that ROCOR in Western Europe will merge with the Church inside Russia or that the Church inside Russia in Western Europe will merge with ROCOR?

A: I don’t know. What I do know is that the most active and most missionary, the most spiritually alive, will dominate. Those who are spiritually asleep will be absorbed. If you do not have younger bishops, resident bishops, active bishops, missionary bishops, bishops who are interested in their flocks and local saints, you will die in your self-made ghetto. This is what happened to ROCOR in South America. This is of course true for all Local Churches and their dioceses in the Diaspora. If you do not live, you will die. Surely, that is not too complicated to understand?

For example, today, just in the eastern third of England, we need twelve priests who can speak at least some Russian and some English – if they are bilingual, that would be perfect. I could name the places where they are needed. But where are we going to find them? We have to encourage men to think about this. That requires leadership, time, effort and energy.

Q: How can you describe the ethos of ROCOR, as compared with the ethos of parishes dependent on the Church inside Russia?

A: The emphasis of ROCOR in the last 25 years especially has quite clearly been on the New Martyrs and Confessors, Anti-Sergianism and Anti-Ecumenism. Wherever within the jurisdiction of the Church inside Russia there is veneration for the New Martyrs and Confessors (and it is very extensive), wherever there is resistance to the ideas that the Church must swim with the secular tide of the State and resistance to ecumenist compromises (also extensive), there is joy in ROCOR. However, the fact is that some of the foreign parishes in the jurisdiction of the Church inside Russia, suffered in the past from modernism, ecumenism and liberalism, unlike parishes inside Russia. When the ethos becomes identical, then there will be a complete merger, though, as I say, it is not clear which part of the Church will dominate it. That will depend on the leadership of bishops.

Q: You mentioned local saints in Western Europe. Who at present venerates those local saints?

A: It mostly seems to be immigrants from Eastern Europe, who have the sense of saints and relics. Sadly, despite all our decades of efforts, there are few native Western European Orthodox.

Q: Why? I thought there were many converts?

A: That is a myth. There have never been ‘many’ converts. At most about 2,000-3,000 in the heyday and many of those soon lapsed because they were received into the Church for the wrong reasons or for ideological reasons, with certain clergy trying to build up artificial empires, which of course soon collapsed. Most of their children also lapsed. I doubt if there were ever more than 1,000 serious converts.

However, in the last ten years, I have witnessed a change. Converts started coming in numbers in the 1960s after the collapse of Anglicanism. In other words, most converts were from an Anglican background, often of a public school or wealthy background and most were at that time 30 or 40 years old. Well, that generation, what I call the ‘Kallistos generation’, is literally dying out. Some are still alive, but are in their late sixties or older. The vast majority of these are either in the Antiochian jurisdiction which at last has a new, young, local bishop, or else under the Constantinople Vicariate, which is dependent on an elderly French bishop in France, whom I knew when he was a young priest.

Together, about 600 in all, they together form a sort of Anglican Orthodoxy. For example, as far as I know, the Antiochian clergy are ex-Anglican vicars who have not received training in Orthodoxy and do not know how to do all the services; then the people do not know how to sing; the Vicariate situation is similar. I know one such Antiochian community, where the priest has banned any language other than English! This is racism, though I suspect partly it is because the priest does not understand any language other than English, let alone the Orthodox ethos.

Q: So converts are dying out?

A: Not exactly, rather their nature is changing. There are some new converts, but they do not usually have an Anglican background; after all very few English people nowadays do – even in the mid-19th century, only 50% of English people were ‘Anglican’, that is, they belonged to the Church of England. Although there are few of these new converts, at least they are converting properly and not creating a semi-Orthodoxy, an Anglican-Orthodox club.

Q: So what does that mean for these convert communities?

A: It means that many Vicariate communities number fewer than ten, usually quite elderly people, and form a kind of ex-Anglican clique, centred on the dead Metr Antony Bloom. Where they are more numerous, most of the people are Eastern Europeans. In a similar way, ageing Antiochian groups are being saved from extinction by Eastern Europeans, especially church-deprived Romanians. Most of these groups do not have their own premises and use Anglican churches.

Q: So what is the justification for using English in services, if there are fewer converts?

A: There are now three justifications. Firstly, there are still English people, converts or children and grandchildren of converts with the English husbands of Orthodox women, secondly, there are the English-speaking children of Eastern Europeans and thirdly, in mixed-nationality parishes, English is simply the common language. The future is with the second group, children of Eastern Europeans, because they are now the majority of English-speaking Orthodox.

Q: How are they to be kept in the Church?

A: That is the key question. In ROCOR, for example, the London Cathedral lost virtually everyone from its second generation, let alone from the third and fourth. And that is a typical story for all jurisdictions everywhere. Why? Because they had no identity, apart from an ethnic one, which they naturally disowned. It is vital for Orthodox children born here or going to school here to have an Orthodox identity, to know and appreciate our civilizational values, to know that we are simply Christians. The old generations generally failed to do this, their identity was purely ethnic, not spiritual.

Thus, the children went to school, lost their parents’ language and said, ‘I’m English, this is nothing to do with me, it’s only for old people’. Assimilation. For example, there are six Anglican Cypriot priests in the Diocese of London. Why? Because they did not understand Greek, so they left the Greek Orthodox Church. Of course, we can only give children this identity if parents bring their children to church regularly. Those children have to be instructed in Sunday schools and they have to have activities, which creates in them a sense of belonging to the Church. If parents do not bring up their children in the church, then they will be completely lost.

Q: Why do Protestants so value the Old Testament?

A: The Reformation was largely financed by Jews (despite Luther’s virulent anti-Jewishness) and most Protestants have always been pro-Jewish. Cromwell depended on them almost entirely. (Even today Israel depends entirely on Protestant countries, especially the USA; Catholics have always been more sceptical). Thus, the Protestants even use the Jewish Old Testament in favour of the Christian one! For Orthodox, by far the most important book of the Old Testament is the Psalter, which is why you rarely find Orthodox reading the Old Testament (other than Genesis and Exodus), but rather just the New Testament and the Psalms.

Q: Why is the USA forcing countries, like the Ukraine and also African countries, into accepting homosexual marriage? Is Obama a homosexual?

A: I have no idea what Obama is – except that he supported thuggery by toppling the democratically-elected government of the Ukraine and replacing it with a murderous Fascist junta, which has little control of the country outside Kiev. Then there are the US drones which can murder anyone anywhere. As regards his other personal inclinations, I would not rely on internet rumours.

Now for your main question, which needs a historical answer.

When, in the 11th century, Satan set about destroying Christendom, his first target was to desacralize, that is, secularize, the Church. Satan cannot stand the presence of the sacred, the sacred must be removed from the world because it prevents him from realizing his plans to take total control of the world. This he did by attacking the Church at its weakest point, that is, in the Western provinces, where all had been weakened by the barbarian invasions. In the 11th century the Western Patriarchate was converted to secularism, with what had been the Church becoming a State, becoming secular, changing the Creed, controlling murderous armies, the courts and sponsoring invasions etc. In history this is called papocaesarism.

In other words, the first step to Satanization, was to remove the Altar. The second step was to remove the Throne, that is, to remove the sacral monarchy. This act came later and was done in the 17th century in England, in the 18th century in France and in the 20th century in Russia, although it is true that the Western monarchies had been deformed before then, either by parliamentarianism, or else by absolutism, neither of which conforms to the Orthodox Christian understanding of monarchy, which is the presence of the Lord’s Anointed among the people.

Thus, having removed the spiritual content of the Faith and the Ruler, having desacralized the Faith and the King, there remained the third and final stage, to desacralize or secularize the Christian People and popular culture. This means destroying Christian cultural values (a process that was very rapid in the 20th century), destroying the family – very rapid from the 1960s on after the fall of the Second Vatican Council, when fasting was abolished and so now today we have an obesity crisis). Then they also started destroying the identity of the human person in the unisex movement that since the 1960s has resulted in only two generations in a transgender, transhuman society.

This enslavement is a form of suicide. It is why Russian Orthodox Tsardom, the Christian Empire, had to be destroyed in 1917. With its slogan of Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and the People, the Faith, Tsar and Rus, in English, Altar, Throne, Cottage, in French, Foi, Roi, Loi, its existence was the one thing that made upside down Satanism, with its aim of destroying the Church, the Ruler and the People, impossible.

Q: Can this situation of spiritual enslavement be reversed, or is an imminent end inevitable?

A: Nothing is inevitable because for human beings repentance is always possible. In Russia, the Church is slowly being restored and with Her the ideal of a Spiritual Empire, with a Christian Emperor and People. However, nothing is certain and there are reasons for both profound pessimism and profound optimism. May God’s will be done. On 18 December 1917 the Tsarina Alexandra wrote in her diary: (The Revolution in Russia) ‘is a disease, after which Russia will grow stronger. O Lord, be merciful and save Russia!’ May this hopeful prophecy be true.

‘Prelest’ and Conversion

It is strange that a foreign word, the Slavonic (not Russian) word ‘prelest’, should sometimes be used in English. It is only a translation of the Greek word ‘plani’ and long ago in the fifth century it was translated from Greek ascetic works into Latin by the Gaulish St John Cassian as ‘illusio’. So in English it could be translated simply as (spiritual) illusion, but perhaps the English word ‘self-delusion’ is even more exact. ‘Prelest’ simply means a state of mind in which we imagine that we are something that we are not, in other words, we are deluded. There are two states that greatly contribute to the development of self-delusion.

The first is an emotional state, an excess of imagination and strong feelings. Feelings of self-exaltation, sentimentality, vanity, narcissism and superiority, living in the imagination, which are all simply forms of pride, create fertile soil for self-delusion. Ultimately, these feelings can even develop into psychic phenomena like self-hypnosis, levitation and the production of physical marks like ‘stigmata’. On a simpler level, such states produce pomposity and self-love, the person who is absurdly in love with himself and his gifts, not seeing that anything good is God-given. Such people are easily mocked, as they are ridiculous. Clearly, such feelings are based on vulgar pride. The antidote to them is inner sobriety – a quality most characteristic of the Fathers and the Saints, for it is based on modesty and so humility.

The second state is isolation. People who isolate themselves from others and condemn them, because they think that are better than them, soon fall into self-delusion. They cultivate strange and unique practices because they do not belong to the catholicity of the Church, from which they have cut themselves off. They are too good for the rest of the Church. They do not see that such practices are provincial, literally, ‘parochial’. For example, we can think of one tiny community where all four female members have to wear long, down to the floor, dresses and a strange hat and another where all the men have to be bearded. There is one which is known as ‘the pony tail club’, since that is how the men have to wear their hair like their guru. A fourth practices a ‘secret language’, an esoteric code of garbled foreign words which of course the non-initiated cannot understand. Clearly, the smaller and the more self-isolated the community, the stranger the customs. The antidote to all this is to mix with others, to visit other parishes and monasteries, to see what is normal.

Here we can see the connection between this state of self-delusion and conversion (regardless of the nationality of the neophyte). The essential disease of conversion is to identify the Faith with externals. ‘Beard competition Orthodoxy’ is a typical example of this, but so is wearing prayer knots around the wrist or wearing a large cross outside one’s clothes or women wearing an exaggerated head covering. Genuine conversion is all about not being different in externals, not attention seeking, but about converting the inside. Go to any ordinary parish and you will see people dressed anonymously – they could be anyone, but maybe one of them is a saint. Genuine Orthodox Christians do not stand out, except by their example of living a good life.

There is nothing so disheartening as one who has been a member of the Church for 40 or 50 years, but still calls himself a ‘convert’. It is over – move on. St Paul never refers to himself as a convert. Nor does anyone who has got over the first few months of conversion to the Church and its novelties. All must pray for those who are in the early stages of conversion, that they may get through these stages as swiftly as possible. As Psalm 50 says: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise’ (Psalm 50). ‘The burnt offerings’ were never necessary, so do not make them.