Jump to content

- - - - -

Toll houses

  • Please log in to reply
114 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_Kempis

  • Guests

Posted 16 February 2004 - 02:08 AM

Are toll houses a common teaching? Is it 'Orthodoxy?'

#2 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe


  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 17 February 2004 - 02:20 PM

Not common. Many, many Orthodox have been baptized and buried and presumably gone on to their reward never hearing about "toll houses."

It does not represent the totality of "Orthodoxy" but it is Orthodox, if we are to judge by the prayers of the Holy Church, which do make mention of appeals to the Theotokos for a good defense before the demons of the air upon our death. The teaching has gained attention due to the writings of Fr. Seraphim Rose who emphasized the teaching and Bishop Lazar Puhalo who argued against it. Several other respected Orthodox writers, such as Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos take something of a middle ground between those two.

I think it can be said that the concept of "toll houses" is part of Orthodoxy, I don't know that it is essential to Orthodoxy, and whether or not anyone personally accepts or rejects the concept is NOT considered a litmus test for "Orthodoxy."

At least that is my simple understanding.

I am not a licensed or certified theologian. These views may or may not reflect the actual teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church, consult an approved spiritual counselor before accepting. Not legal in all spiritual states.

#3 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack


  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 17 February 2004 - 05:19 PM

Dear Herman,

Your last post on the toll-house got me thinking. What is it about this concept that leaves us with so little clarity? I came up with some possibilites: 1)self-will; we want to hear as little as possible about judgment of our sins; that we really bear responsibilty for our sins; we can even get angry that God would be so 'cruel'. And the teaching about the toll-houses is so 'in your face' when it comes to judgement; there seems nothing nice about it.

2) there is something about the toll-houses that seems almost like it comes from a Gothic novel; with our rationalism we have 'stream-lined' the after-life, heaven & hell; we often have the same reaction to the toll houses that we do to the ancient accounts of experiences of those who temporarily were in the after-life reality.

3) we react against the idea that there is a judgement before Christ's Judgement; that the demons could could condemn us (why trust demons? ) for something that would be eternally binding. Whatever the toll-houses are & represent how could it be this? Yes- I also have these thoughts and and questions. It does seem Orthodox that there is a testing after death or toll-houses perhaps. I do however question anything that appears to get in the way of God's mercy (His direct mercy & the prayers of others for us when we die)and guestion its Orthodoxy. Again I am not questioning the toll-houses so much as how they are interpreted by us.

Anyways- these are just my thoughts- I rely and value the input of others.

In Christ- Fr R

#4 Guest_Rebecca

  • Guests

Posted 17 February 2004 - 11:09 PM


agree on non-litmus test point you make.

and because it is timely:


#5 Guest_James Isaac Crabtree

Guest_James Isaac Crabtree
  • Guests

Posted 21 February 2004 - 09:03 PM

Greetings all..

I just bought "The Soul, the Body, and Death" by Fr. Seraphim Rose. It is a theological masterpiece! It's full of scriptural and patristic quotations.

The tollhouses seemed silly to me at first, until I realized what it meant. Here, in my opinion, are the implications of the tollhouses.

1) Sin is not merely some forensic infraction of a moral code. Sin is treason to the Kingdom of God. Sin gives the dark prince some sort of hold in our lives. At the tollhouses, the evil one will examine us to see if we have any debt to him.. anything of his in us.

2) Grace is also not something merely "imputed" or credited to our account. It must be appropriated by repentance, prayers, almsgivings. In the vision of Gregory concerning Theodora's ascent through the tollhouses, she is given a "bag of gold," spiritually representing prayers that St. Basil the New had said for her. I find this very similar to the spiritual vision in which John saw the prayers of the Saints as incense. Those prayers would allow Theodora to pass unhindered through the aerial realms. They were a direct manifestation of Christ's Grace. The grace of Christ is an ENABLING grace.. it enables us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling."

3) The tollhouses also imply to me that while people may fall alone, no one is saved alone. We are saved in our participation in the saved community, the Church. Prayers, offerings, comemorations, and almsgivings for the dead directly appropriate the Grace of Christ on their behalf.

4) The tollhouses also imply that prior to the Second Coming, there is a chance for those now in Hades. Insomuch as they are willing to receive our help, those in hades may be lifted to paradise. Christ God, through His Cross, is indeed still drawing all men unto Himself! St. Gregory the Great is said to have noticed that the pagan Roman Emperor Trajan did a very good work on behalf of a poor widow... an act that was very much Christian in character. St. Gregory was moved by the All-Holy Spirit to weep and pray for this pagan. It is said that he baptized Trajan in his tears! Thanks to Saint Gregory, the Grace of Christ Jesus allowed Trajan to rise up from Hades and pass through the tollhouses to paradise! There are MANY other examples of these kinds of things in the lives of the saints.

5) The tollhouses take literally verses in scripture that refer to the "prince of the powers of the air," and "wickedness in high places."

Only the unrepentant will be hindered by these aerial spirits. Those who have manifested the grace of Christ will boldly confront the demons. It is said that the souls of small children pass them by and put the mighty princes to shame.

I love the doctrine of the tollhouses because of its catholicity within the Holy Church. Undisputably it is a part of Orthodox Tradition, and can be objectively traced from the third century onwards. From John Chrysostom to John of Damascus to TONS of others. Below are just a FEW of the people who have mentioned the tollhouses in their writings:

St. Eustratius the Great Martyr (4th century)
St. Niphon of Constantia in Cyprus (4th century)
St. Symeon the Fool for Christ (6th century)
St. John the Merciful (7th century)
St Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain (7th century)
St. Macarius the Great (4th century)
St. Columba (6th century)
St. Adamnan (8th century)
St. Boniface (8th century)
St. Basil the New (10th century)
the Soldier Taxiotes
St. John of the Ladder (6th century)

Those are my two cents on the aerial tollhouses.

#6 Guest_Kempis

  • Guests

Posted 22 February 2004 - 06:56 AM

quote: It is said that he baptized Trajan in his tears! Thanks to Saint Gregory, the Grace of Christ Jesus allowed Trajan to rise up from Hades and pass through the tollhouses to paradise!

Only Christ saves, not the hopes of the greatest saint can saved a sinner.

#7 Guest_christodoulos

  • Guests

Posted 23 February 2004 - 06:36 AM

Christ saves. Christ baptizes. Christ gives himself in the Eucharist. This does not negate divine synergy or human agency in each of those things.

#8 Guest_Kempis

  • Guests

Posted 23 February 2004 - 03:33 PM

christodoulos, i never said it does.


#9 Guest_Andrey Vershinin

Guest_Andrey Vershinin
  • Guests

Posted 04 July 2005 - 03:31 PM

I've have in my possession two books by Father Seraphim Rose.

1. ORTHODOXY and the Religion of the Future
2. The Soul After Death

I suggest for people to read them, I found them very helpful in allowing me to find out the standing of the Orthodox Church on many topics.

The first book contained information of UFOs, and how the Orthodox view them. The Soul After Death points out an Orthodox understanding of the Astral Plane, and near-death visions and experiences. Another Orthodox understanding which is offered in the same book, is also about the "spirit guides" and where they dwell(astral realm.)

Father Seraphim Rose goes to point out many dates,(in ORTHODOXY and the Religion of the Future),in which the Greek Orthodox Church, attempted to commune the other religions. One such date (in ORTHODOXY and Religion of the Future ) was February 1972, in which the Greek Orthodox Church "held an official theological "dialogue" with the Jews". Other dates which were pointed out were 1960(Temple of Understanding), and 1970,1971(WCC-related work)

all these dates were in the Introduction, so the understanding is paved, and the rest of the road is a tale

#10 Guest_Charalambos Andrew Geo

Guest_Charalambos Andrew Geo
  • Guests

Posted 21 July 2005 - 11:21 PM

I have to add, when reading those books check it with their spiritual fr because me and some friends read it, we were very interested but slightly not ready yet as we had a slightly negative reaction, if you want details i can ellaborate but that is not important, very good books that i liked when i read parts but i do advice to check it with their spiritual fr and to read with prayer in mind, it might be for those with wisdom teath or for those who can chew for others and explain

#11 Kosmas Damianides

Kosmas Damianides

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 201 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 22 July 2005 - 03:45 PM

"Do you not know that the Saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life?!" (1 Corinthians 6:2-4).

#12 Kosmas Damianides

Kosmas Damianides

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 201 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 23 July 2005 - 03:49 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Before we can look at the writings of various Fathers shouldn't we firstly look at the greatest authority we have regarding our Christian Faith the words of Christ in the Holy Bible?

Here are various Biblical verses which discuss judgement of souls after we die.

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:22-29)

And if I cast out demons by Be-elzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they (the demons) shall be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:27-28, Luke 11:19-20)

From these two verses above, we may see where the idea of being 'judged by demons' comes from. If someone is empty and void of the Grace of God and His Holy Spirit then naturally he would be under the powere of demons and demons would be able to judge him or her. But on closer examination, who is void and empty of God's Grace and Spirit? If we truly believe in God then we should not fear being judged by demons since they would have no power over us.

If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the Word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day." (John 12:47-48).

And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. (Acts 10:42-43).

All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Romans 2:12-13)

From these three verses therefore we see that God has two methods of judgement depending on who we ourselves consider to be our judge. if we have Christ as our judge and follow His teachings then He will judge us according to His mercy, however if we have the Law as our witness and judge then we will be judged by the Law.

The 20 laws or commandments (toll houses) mentioned before are those reserved for those who heard the Word of God but did not keep it. Those who did not accept the mercy of God who thought that the Law could save them. "Therefore they (the demons) shall be your judges." Says Christ.

The 20 (demonic) Toll Houses

1) Idle talking & foul language
2) Lying
3) Judging & slandering
4) Gluttony & Drunkenness
5) Laziness
6) Stealing
7) Greed for money & stinginess
8) Extortion & bribery
9) Falsehood & Vanity
10) Envy
11) Pride
12) Anger
13) Enmity (remembering of wrongs)
14) Robbery
15) Magic & Foretune telling
16) Fornication
17) Adultery
18) Sodomy
19) Idol worship
20) Unmercifulness & hardheartedness

In conclusion God wishes us to live a Spiritual Life filled with God's Love, Grace, Love and Mercy. Let Christ therefore come into our hearts and be our judge. I hope that Christ truly will be our judge.

Glory To You Christ our God.


#13 Kosmas Damianides

Kosmas Damianides

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 201 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 24 July 2005 - 12:27 PM

I forgot to mention,

Ultimately these "toll houses" based on visions and dreams by the Saints are pedagogical, didactic tools and not real. The Orthodox Church does not base doctrine or dogma on visions.

The Orthodox Church classes these things in the category of theologoumena, meaning that it is unclear and is definitely not an article of faith necessary for salvation. Although these visions are definitely mentioned by the Saints this does not necessarily make it 'Orthodoxy'.

Hell is not, as we have previously said a place as such. The Devil does not have horns, a long tail and carry a trident, nor is hell a 'place' filled with hot lava, boiling tar, sulfur and bodies of people being cut into pieces again and again. These horrific descriptions are figurative and symbolic, not real.

In Christ


#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack


  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 24 July 2005 - 01:35 PM

Hell is not, as we have previously said a place as such. The Devil does not have horns, a long tail and carry a trident, nor is hell a 'place' filled with hot lava, boiling tar, sulfur and bodies of people being cut into pieces again and again. These horrific descriptions are figurative and symbolic, not real.

I am afraid that I must take issue with this since what is symbolic is not opposed to the real in Orthodoxy. In fact for us the symbolic is reality in the sense of "seeing through the glass darkly" & of experiencing something that is most definitely a reality of God's providence even if we do not have the exact words to describe this. So to say that hell is not a place is not to deny its existence or its tragic consequences. And I think something similar could be said about the toll houses which are after all attested to by many saints who are saints by virtue of the fact that they have Orthodox (ie literally "proper" or "correct") vision of God's reality.

What needs to be questioned I think is not the reality of these things so much as what God's judgement means for us.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 24 July 2005 - 03:02 PM

Theology, generically speaking, is the science of spiritual experiences and their symbolization. In that sense, it's not that different from classical philosophy. In Christian theology, the revelation is more complete, we might say, and therefore more true, than in the Israelite or philosophic revelation. But we must not detach the symbol from reality.

That's the result of an over-objectification of the symbol, which happens in Phariseeism, or, later, in secular ideologies, such as scientism. The ultimate symbol is man himself. We cannot define a man in an immanent sense. We can measure a person, describe a person, describe the bio-chemical processes, his history in an immediate sense, cultural influences, beliefs, etc., but that does not tell us either what that particular man is, or what mankind is. At some point we are left with the mystery, the truth of which can only be symbolized. Man is a symbolic representation of the divine mystery. There is no other purpose for man to exist. No other reason why he should exist. The loss of the reality of the symbol is the source of man's downfall, his reduction to the status of a tool of other men's concupiscence. Man has no factual existence, qua man.

"What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" is still the question, to which there is no objective or absolute answer, certainly not in any immanent sense.

The restoration of a truly symbolic understanding of who we are lies at the heart of a restoration of true theology and its recovery from the bastard definitions which have come to dominate modern thought. Which is why preaching to a congregation suffering from mass identify crisis is wasted. We don't know who we are, and simply to revert to a slogan, such as, "we are children of God," absent the interior awareness of our symbolic nature, falls on deaf ears, and we go about our lives trying to "actualize our existence," to "define ourselves," by being "religious," or perhaps being "more religious," or become more active in the Church, or perhaps "joining a monastery." The goal should be to eliminating this false concept of the self from our consciousness. To consider the "I" as simply one of many perspectives on reality, and not something that exists. There is no "I" there.

#16 Guest_Leandros

  • Guests

Posted 24 July 2005 - 06:21 PM

The issue of "symbols of reality" versus "symbols of beyond reality" is a major Orthodox theological issue that is addressed, continuously, by the Church from the first day of Pentecost until today.

"consciousness" is not a delusion.

Once a man "had the great honor and blessing to transport elder Paisios somewhere with his car and had asked elder Paisios : “Elder, tell me about God, speak to me, how is he?”. "The elder did not speak and he continued to drive, on curves furthermore on the mountain".

Then, the man experienced a similar experience that another layman had experienced by the side of St Serapheim of Sarov:

"My God! I began suddenly feeling God everywhere. In the car, outside on the mountains, far in the distant galaxies. He was everywhere, he filled everything, but he was nothing of all of these things...

I lived in a form of… ecstasy, a type of intoxication, without however having lost my senses and my contact with the material world. A “vigilant intoxication” as the ancient ascetics and Saints characterize it in their writings.

As if someone pulled away a curtain from my mind, from my soul, and I began living in the same world on the one hand, but in the whole world, whereas first I lived in a part of it.

Imagine a deaf person who suddenly begins hearing. He lived in the same world, but without the sounds. Now he hears too.

Imagine a blind person who suddenly begins seeing. The same world now has images and colors too....

At some moment I began telling the Elder these things I am feeling. He was not speaking. He did not want me to speak of these. He did not want me to realize that he was the cause.... "

#17 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 24 July 2005 - 06:53 PM

Good message. Thanks.

#18 Guest_Leandros

  • Guests

Posted 24 July 2005 - 11:56 PM

From the writings of Greek Orthodox theologian Dionysios Papachristodoulou (student of Father J. Romanides):

In our (contemporary) language the “symbol” is 1) an “image”, a creature or thing that represents a concept 2) a person that incarnates and personates an idea or emotion 3) anything, in general, that can represent abstract ideas, facts, concepts or feelings.

For example, a dove is the “symbol” of peace and this meaning is linked with the specific functionality of particularization, it is linked with the specific ascription of the abstract “reality” of peace. In this context, words are “symbols” which can receive specific meaning. Provided that the internal of holy words-symbols is filled by divine realization, by studying the Scriptures or the Creed of the Faith, it is possible to learn about God. Therefore, in symbols-words there is an analogy of faith (analogia fidei).

But for the Greeks, the “symbol” is an object in the service of the identification, of the meeting, of the communication. The original meaning of the Greek word “symbol” comes from the Greek verb “symballw” that means “to contribute”. The original meaning of the word “symbol” was that of “identification mark”, which was consisted in an object that was separated in two and which permitted two complete strangers, who had in their possession each one of the separated fragments, to identify each other by putting together the separated pieces. The two pieces, which were assembled in harmony as one object, are the literal meaning of “symbol”. Ancient Greek cities also used “symbols” in order to authenticate ambassadors from far away. A “symbol” actually consists from two complementary parts that allows their carriers to be mutually recognized as “one of ours” and to meet each other in trust.

In a “symbol”, there is no hidden occultistic mysticism and (this is the most important) there is NO ANALOGY whatsoever. On the contrary, the two parts of a “symbol” are reverse. In case the one part is concave, the other one is convex, or else they would not match.

The Church of Christ has used the cultural body of the Greeks. We are called to confess the Christian SYMBOL (Creed of Faith), to hold the proper “piece” in order to be identified as genuine members of His Body, by the Head that is Christ. Yes, we are called to confess, but in the Christian way and not in the Judaic way.

There is a great difference between symbolic and allegoric method. The allegoric method, as it is used today, is the method of metaphor, which is the way to express a reality by a parallel reality.

But, the Church Fathers had used the anagogic methodology because they wanted to introduce us, to “tune” us, in the reality “beyond” any parallel reality, in THE REALITY of the Lord. Therefore they had considered as basic problems the ignorance, the oblivion and the indolence: the ignorance of noetic prayer and the oblivion, as the deduction of experience of THE REALITY, which result in indolence.

A “symbol” is an object originated from “creation” that helps us to feel or to remember one of our experiences which matches in a suitable way (not absolutely and in analogy) with another created or uncreated reality. As a symbol can be used everything that can contribute to the “tune-up” of a created being so that it may meet with “the other”. When this mortal being is dressed in “the Other” in Baptism, he/she is called Christian.

The Christian knows that there is no analogy, so he understands the Christian Dogma as a symbol that is accepted to be confessed with the Church, even if he/she personally disagrees with it. Christian Dogma is not an ideology that is needed to be accepted without objection.

Christian Dogma is like having an ill child from cold: you go to the doctor and ask for antibiotics and the doctor prescribes anti-inflammatory instead. Well, for the good of your child you have to go to the drugstore and to “confess” with the doctor the right prescription. The doctor’s prescription is the “symbol” of healing, only if the patient’s father accepts to experience it – even contrary to his pleasure.

A symbol is always in need for a relation and it is meaningless without one."

#19 Guest_Andrey Vershinin

Guest_Andrey Vershinin
  • Guests

Posted 25 July 2005 - 12:59 AM

as for my understanding, it feels to me as if alot of things were liberated under the touch of God, even in words, such as Lov., When it seems that such a word is so small to describe basic things, the word has undertaken a entirely new meaning and definition when God has touched upon the word; hence the factly based notion that is "God is love"

I hope you all understand what I mean, as I saw the above post as a hiddenly simple understanding which was only alive through salvation

God be merciful to me a sinner

#20 Kosmas Damianides

Kosmas Damianides

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 201 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 25 July 2005 - 08:26 PM

May God Forgive Me

Thank you Fr Raphael for correcting me.

I obviously meant to say (in my rush)that these visions though mystical and symbolic, represent another reality which we cannot understand fully in our own reality which we live.

There are two realities or rhelms/kingdoms. The spiritual and the material, the eternal and the corruptible.



0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users