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Evangelizing the West

In 1893 an unknown Hindu monk arrived at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He was Swami Vivekananda, whom I have mentioned already. He made a stunning impression on those who heard him, both by his appearance — beturbaned and robed in orange and crimson — and by what he said. He was immediately lionized by high society in Boston and New York. Philosophers at Harvard were mightily impressed. And it wasn't long until he had gathered a hard core of disciples who supported him and his grandiose dream: the evangelizing of the Western world by Hinduism, and more particularly, by Vedantic (or monistic) Hinduism. Vedanta Societies were established in the large cities of this country and in Europe. But these centers were only a part of his work. More important was introducing Vedantic ideas into the bloodstream of academic thinking. Dissemination was the goal. It mattered little to Vivekananda whether credit was given to Hinduism or not, so long as the message of Vedanta reached everyone. On many occasions he said: Knock on every door. Tell everyone he is Divine.


Today parts of his message are carried in paperbacks that you can find in any bookstore — books by Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Somerset Maugham, Teilhard de Chardin, and even Thomas Merton. Next...


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Hindu Places and Practices

In 1956 1 did field work with headhunters in the Philippines. My interest was in primitive religion -particularly in what is termed an "unacculturated" area — where there had been few missionaries. When I arrived in Ifugao (that's the name of the tribe), I didn't believe in black magic; when I left, I did. An Ifugao priest (a munbaki) named Talupa became my best friend and informant. In time I learned that he was famous for his skill in the black art. He took me to the baki, which is a ceremony of ritualistic magic that occurred almost every night during the harvest season. A dozen or so priests gathered in a hut and the night was spent invoking deities and ancestors, drinking rice wine and making sacrifices to the two small images known as bulol. They were washed in chicken blood, which had been caught in a dish and used to divine the future before it was used on the images. They studied the blood for the size and number of bubbles in it, the time it took to coagulate; also, the color and configuration of the chicken's organs gave them information. Each night I dutifully took notes. But this was just the beginning. I won't elaborate on Ifugao magic; suffice it to say that by the time I left, I had seen such a variety and quantity of supernatural occurrences that any scientific explanation was virtually impossible. If I had been predisposed to believe anything when I arrived. it was that magic had a wholly natural explanation. Also, let me say that I don't frighten very easily. But the fact is that I left Ifugao because I saw that their rituals not only worked, but they had worked on me at least twice. Next...


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Hinduism; The Power of the Pagan gods; Hinduism's Assault Upon Christianity

All the gods of the pagans are demons (Psalm 95:5).

The following article comes from the experience of a woman who, after attending high school in a Roman Catholic convent, practiced Hinduism for twenty years until finally, by God's grace, she was converted to the Orthodox Faith, finding the end of her search for truth in the Russian Church Outside of Russia. She currently resides on the West Coast. May her words serve to open the eyes of those Orthodox Christians who might be tempted to follow the blind "Liberal" theologians who are now making their appearance even in the Orthodox Church, and whose answer to the assault of neo-paganism upon the Church of Christ is to conduct a "dialogue" with its wizards and join them in worshipping the very gods of the pagans.


The Attractions of Hinduism

I was just sixteen when two events set the course of my life. I came to Dominican Catholic Convent in San Rafael (California) and encountered Christianity for the first time. The same year I also encountered Hinduism in the person of a Hindu monk, a Swami, who was shortly to become my guru or teacher. A battle had begun, but I wasn't to understand this for nearly twenty years. Next...



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The Monotheistic Religions;

Do We Have the Same God That Non-Christians Have?

by Father Basile Sakkas

"THE HEBREW AND ISLAMIC PEOPLES, AND CHRISTIANS... these three expressions of an identical monotheism, speak with the most authentic and ancient, and even the boldest and most confident voices. Why should it not be possible that the name of the same God, instead of engendering irreconcilable opposition, should lead rather to mutual respect, understanding and peaceful coexistence? Should the reference to the same God, the same Father, without prejudice to theological discussion, not lead us rather one day to discover what is so evident, yet so difficult — that we are all sons of the same Father, and that, therefore, we are all brothers?"

Pope Paul VI, La Croix, Aug. 11, 1970

On Thursday, April 2, 1970, a great religious manifestation took place in Geneva. Within the framework of the Second Conference of the "Association of United Religions," the representatives of target religions were invited to gather in the Cathedral of Saint Peter. This "common prayer" was based on the following motivation: "The faithful of all these religions were invited to coexist in the cult of the same God"! Let us then see if this assertion is valid in the light of the Holy Scriptures. Next...


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The innermost spiritual sense of Orthodox Monasticism is revealed in joyful mourning. This paradoxical phrase denotes a spiritual state in which a monk in his prayer grieves for the sins of the world and at the same time experiences the regenerating spiritual joy of Christ's forgiveness and resurrection. A monk dies in order to live, he forgets himself in order to find his real self in God, he becomes ignorant of worldly knowledge in order to attain real spiritual wisdom which is given only to the humble ones. (Ed.)

With the development of monasticism in the Church there appeared a peculiar way of life, which however did not proclaim a new morality. The Church does not have one set of moral rules for the laity and another for monks, nor does it divide the faithful into classes according to their obligations towards God. The Christian life is the same for everyone. Next...

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It is very difficult in our times to be looking to heaven, because of all the weight, the dead weight of worldliness which lies upon us. If one applies oneself constantly, however, one can begin to do it. Even with a little bit of struggle, if applied constantly, one begins to form for oneself a whole different viewpoint, a whole different way of looking at life, a whole different possibility for action. Any kind of spiritual activity that is to come out of our world today, any kind of Orthodox missionary activity, apostleship, etc., must be on the basis of such a view of things. It must be based on looking first at what God wants, first at what is the higher side, first at what the Holy Fathers think, and only then looking down at the practical means one has to use, at money problems, and even at things like sicknesses, because they are all sent for our good, and we have to find how to bring the good out of them. If one does not do that, one is weighed down, especially in our days. Next...

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If one has all this in mind, having the possibility of constant spiritual nourishment, then one must say that it is not true that the whole church situation is hopeless today and that one can do nothing. In fact, the possible activities for today are quite surprising and unexpected. What might come out, we don't know, but there are all kinds of possibilities. We should always learn to expect what is the unexpected, to be prepared for something that might not have been the same way just a little while ago, but that is still within the possibility of true Christianity. This is only done by looking up and not down. We have right in front of us an example of somebody who was like that constantly, and that's our Archbishop John. It is obvious that he was constantly in a different world. He himself, I recall once, gave a sermon on the spiritual life, the mystical life, in which he said: "We have no such thing as some of the later saints of the Latin Church who were sort of up in the clouds—some kind of a realm of sweetness and light and pink clouds—that's prelest. All of our sanctity is based upon having your feet straight on the ground, and, while being of the earth, constantly having the mind lifted upward." Next...

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Again, in everything one must be looking upward, and not downward, at the kingdom of heaven and not down at the details of earthly life. That is, the details of earthly life must be second, and this looking upward must be with zeal, determination and constancy. Constancy is something which is worked out by a spiritual regime based upon wisdom handed down from the Holy Fathers—not mere obedience to tradition for tradition's sake, but rather a conscious assimilation of what wise men in God have seen and written down. On the outward side, this constancy is worked out by a little prayer, and we have this basic little prayer in the church services which have come down to us. Of course in different places they are performed according to one's strength, more or less. Next...

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{mosimage}Our whole modern outlook is to look below to find the causes, the secondary causes. The whole Christian outlook is to look above, and that is why such people as St. Gregory as we can see by reading their writings and their lives—are constantly cheerful. This does not mean that they are overly happy, but rather that they are in a state of deep happiness, because they are constantly looking above and keeping in mind, with determination and constancy, to get to a certain place, which is heaven, and thus they see all the details in the world in that light. If what they see has to do with evil, with the nets of demons, with worldliness, with boredom, with discouragement, or just with ordinary details of living, all that is secondary and is never allowed to be first. In fact, we are told by the Holy Fathers that we are supposed to see in everything something for our salvation. If you can do that, you can be saved.
In a pedestrian way, you can look at something like a printing press which does not operate. You are standing around and enjoying yourself, watching nice, clean, good pages come out printed, which gives a very nice sense of satisfaction, and you are dreaming of missionary activity, of spreading more copies around to a lot of different countries. Next...

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There is a very interesting book from the same period of Abba Dorotheos (the sixth century) by St. Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, which is all about the life at the court of that time and religious people. There are very many interesting lives of Saints in it, as well as the lives of the kings. The kings of that time were particularly unedifying spectacles. They were constantly poisoning each other. The women were even worse.... There was one Brunehild and her sister Fredegund. They were trying to get their sons and grandsons on the throne, and what they didn't do to get them there! They were dragging people by horse's tails and killing them off, and lying and cheating and fantastic things—very uninspiring. But this bishop, St. Gregory, was there and was writing a history of this people, writing in such a way that it actually comes out very inspiring. Behind everything there is a meaning. St. Gregory is constantly on the lookout for comets, earthquakes, and such things. When a king does something wrong, there is an earthquake nearby, or if he goes and kills a person or a whole village unjustly, then there is a famine: and St. Gregory always sees that God is looking out. There is always something spiritual whenever something happens—a comet is seen, the king dies, etc. There is always a connection between what happens in the world and the moral state of the people. Even when the moral state is very bad, all the constant earthquakes and famines and everything else remind us that it is the wrong way to behave, and inspire people to behave correctly. Next...

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The Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the examples of Saint's lives, the services of the Church—all these things have to do, not with worldliness in our daily life, but with conducting us to heaven. By looking above to these things, we are enabled to have zeal; that is, to see that there is something above this routine of worldliness, which is very boring, discouraging, and leads nowhere. But these higher things—these services, tales of people who have come back from the dead, Lives of Saints, writings of the Holy Fathers, Holy Scriptures, the interpretations of the Holy Fathers on passages of Scripture, which are very profound sometimes—these things always make us very zealous, if we have a spark of love for God within ourselves. We want ourselves to be living in such a state and to be going to heaven. But this zeal, by itself, must be of such a kind that it does not come just in a spurt and then eventually fade away. It must be of such a kind that it will last. This means the zeal must be tempered by something deeper, and that something deeper is what St. Seraphim calls determination; that is, zeal that is constant and keeps going—a sort of constant point for your whole life. It keeps you going even when you're discouraged, because you see that there is something above towards which you are striving, and which does not depend upon your moods or your opinions. It is something which must be your constant possession. It is your determination to get to heaven. And this determination, or rather this zeal which becomes determination, must be constant, so that it will not go up and down and burn out. Next...

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Poems by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


THESE are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.
These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June,--
A blue and gold mistake.
Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!
Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,
Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!                  Next...


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Bishop Theophan the Recluse [+1894], when quoting some of the Holy Fathers, deliberately omitted many of the passages which dealt with the physical sides of prayer. He did this knowing that—even in his time, the 19th century—many people would take those physical aspects as the end and begin imitating without getting the essence. Therefore he just left those writings out of his published works. Now, however, many of them are being published in English and you can read how you are supposed to sit on a stool with your head down, etc. People begin to imitate; they begin to think "this is it! "—and it is a matter of fact that if you fast for a long time and do certain exercises, you begin to have all kinds of things happen to you. But that is not spiritual life. It is almost guaranteed, on the contrary, that it is the activity of demons. The spiritual life is much more serious, much more down-to-earth, and therefore that is not the place where you are supposed to find it first of all.

Usually one can spot people who are not serious and are imitating. We even have a story from the early history of our brotherhood.... In San Francisco there was one who got on fire with the idea of the Jesus Prayer. Next...

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This brings us to some of the practical considerations concerning the qualities needed for being spiritually creative and fruitful. There are a few important things which come to mind. One thing is that we must see things the way they are; that is, not go off blind, acting blindly without knowing what's going on in the world. We must be aware that there is such a thing as apostasy, that there are many different kinds of people who call themselves Christians, that they are acting in different ways and some of them are definitely in conflict with each other and with us, and that it can't be that all of them are right and are on the right path. We can see historically how many different kinds of errors, wrong views, wrong kinds of actions got mixed in with Christian faith. We see the frightful modern revolutionary movement; that is, the movement totally away from religion, aiming towards a great world empire of atheism, a foreshadowing of which is seen in Communism. This is not just among the unbelievers or among those who don't believe in the Orthodox way, but even among Orthodox people. We look around and see that many Orthodox people are simply, totally worldly and do not think about the higher side of their Faith. They take it for granted. "It's all automatic. That's what has been handed down. There's always a priest somewhere. If he's not in this town, he's in the next one. He has sacraments and Holy Communion. We just go to him and get what we need and that's all.... You go home and you're satisfied..." Next...

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The Pascha Homily of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour. Next...

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All of this is the negative side we see surrounding us today, and it is a very real part of the atmosphere we breathe every day. On the other hand, we have the Orthodox Christian revelation; that is, the revelation of God to His Church. It has come down to us now these two thousand years, very richly, with many testimonies of Scriptures and Holy Fathers, giving us a definite spiritual outlook, a definite spiritual law of life. The spiritual life and its aim do not change from one time to the next. In fact, we know that from the very beginning, from the time when the Gospel was first preached until now, there are being gathered out of the world citizens of one kingdom, all going towards the heavenly kingdom. All these citizens will speak the same language, and know each other, because they have gone through the one, same Orthodox life, the same spiritual struggle, according to the laws of spiritual life.
The Holy Fathers spoke about the latter times as times of great weakness, in which there would not be the great signs which were performed in the early times of the apostles and in the desert by the first monks, when thousands of miracles were being worked, great Fathers were raising people from the dead, many supernatural events were occurring; and these very Holy Fathers said that this dazzling age of miracles would fade away, and in the end there would be almost nothing at all like that. In fact, those who would be saving themselves would seem totally indistinguishable from everybody else, except that they would somehow keep alive the struggle against all these temptations. Just keeping alive the spark of the true Christian Faith, without making miracles without doing anything out of the ordinary, would already make them, if they endured to the end, as great as or even higher than those great Fathers who worked miracles. Next...

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