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Concerning false perceptions of grace


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#1 Christina M.

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 11:27 PM

I am wondering if anyone can share any stories or quotes from the Fathers concerning false perceptions of the grace of God, for example when someone feels that they have grace but in reality they are only experiencing natural psychosomatic feelings / sensations.

From what I understand, it takes a lot of experience and discernment for someone to be able to distinguish between the grace of God and natural psychosomatic feelings, but I am wondering if there are any quotes, stories, forum threads, or books on the subject.

I am also interested in teachings about why we should never trust our own feelings / sensations.

Thanks for the replies! I am very interested in this subject.

Christ is risen!
Christina

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 11:48 PM

If you see your brother being lifted skyward, as if borne by angels, grab his ankle and pull him down, those angels might be demons in disguise! (from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

#3 Andra K.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:06 AM

Christina, could you elaborate on your question as I am not sure I am understanding what you mean LOL and it is just due to my not understanding and/or ignorance.

What does 'the grace of God' look like and how would somebody know they are experiencing this versus a psychosomatic episode?

Edited by Andra K., 09 May 2011 - 01:07 AM.
spelling error


#4 Christina M.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:26 AM

Okay, I'll try to elaborate, although by nature the topic is a little abstract.

When the grace of God (gifts of the Holy Spirit) visits a person, that person can feel a lot of positive changes happening in both the body and the soul. The "feelings" or "perceptions" that the person experiences can be different every time, but usually there are some general similarities between experiences. The most common feelings that someone experiences when visited by the grace of God are (I think): love, joy, and peace. Many times the person might feel like they are temporarily in paradise, even though they are still on earth. When the grace of God leaves someone, the person feels a great loss and only thinks "When can I be with You again?" (Anyone please feel free to correct my above synapse, but it was not intended to be a "complete" definition.)

On the other hand, there are many different kinds of feelings, emotions, or sensations that can seem to someone like the grace of God, even though these are completely natural psychosomatic functions. Whereas the grace of God is supernatural, these psychosomatic sensations are purely natural. The dangerous thing (and this is why I am interested in this topic) is that sometimes we are deceived into thinking that we have the grace of God, but in reality we are just experiencing natural biochemical / psychological changes.

Only spiritual experience and obedience to our spiritual father can help us gain the discernment to be able to distinguish between a true experience of God and a psychosomatic feeling. I am interested in teachings from the Fathers on this subject.

#5 Andra K.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:38 AM

Thank you for explaining this to me :)

#6 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 02:25 AM

I don't have an online library to cut and paste and really don't want to retype alot, but St. Seraphim and Motovilov comes to mind.

St. Paisios in his book also related to some "supernatural" events in his life.

I read years ago about hermits who would walk out of their mountain side caves and plunge to their deaths thinking they could walk on air.

So yes, there are both senarios here.

#7 Christina M.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 02:33 AM

I read years ago about hermits who would walk out of their mountain side caves and plunge to their deaths thinking they could walk on air.

This is EXACTLY the kind of stuff I'm interested in learning about. The very interesting thing is that these people truly felt like they had the real grace of God (I think...), but obviously it was some other kinds of feelings they were experiencing.

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 02:37 AM

ok, BUT; you need to give MORE weight to the positive aspect of this Grace. Tragic things happen when men become deluded by their own weaknesses, but there are many stories of God-filled Grace we should spend more time looking to and trying to emulate. I don't want to walk out the side of a cliff. I would like to experience warmth as I am covered in snow.

#9 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 08:21 AM

We need to know just what God's grace means. This has always confused me a little.

My understanding is that God's grace is His love towards us which allows us to try and unite with Him. Not become Him but become, as much as we are able, like Him..

I just found this. Simple but not simplistic. Just what I need.

"God, according to the Orthodox theological view, is One in a Trinity and a Trinity in One. As St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Dionysius the Areopagite, and other holy Fathers repeatedly say, God is filled with a divine love, a divine eros for His creatures. Because of this infinite and ecstatic love of His, He comes out of Himself and seeks to unite with them. This is expressed and realised by means of His energy or, better, His energies.

With these, His uncreated energies, God created the world and continues to preserve it. He gives essence and substance to our world through His essence-creating energies. He is present in nature and preserves the universe with His preserving energies; He illuminates man with His illuminating energies; He sanctifies him with His sanctifying energies. Finally, He deifies him with His deifying energies. Thus, through his uncreated energies, holy God enters nature, the world, history, and men's lives.

The energies of God are divine energies. They too are God, but without being His essence. They are God, and therefore they can deify man. If the energies of God were not divine and uncreated, they would not be God and so they would not be able to deify us, to unite us with God. There would be an unbridgeable distance between God and men. But by virtue of God having divine energies, and by uniting with us by these energies, we are able to commune with Him and to unite with His Grace without becoming identical with God, as would happen if we united with His essence.

So, we unite with God through His uncreated energies, and not through His essence. This is the mystery of our Orthodox faith and life. "

http://www.greekorth...heosis_how.html

More from the above site :

"nThe psyche of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God, yearns for God and desires union with Him. No matter how moral, how good man may be, no matter how many good deeds he may perform, if he does not find God, if he does not unite with Him, he finds no rest. Because holy God Himself placed within him this holy thirst, the divine eros, the desire for union with Him, for deification (gr. theosis). He has in himself the erotic power, which he receives from his Creator, in order to love truly, strongly, selflessly, just as his holy Creator falls in love with His world, with His creatures. This is so that with this holy erotic impetus and loving power, he falls in love with God. If man did not have the image of God in himself, he would not be able to seek its prototype. Each of us is an image of God, and God is our prototype. The image seeks the prototype, and only when it finds it does it find rest. "

I would like to post the above paragraph in the thread started by someone who asked us why we believe that there is a God.

#10 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 08:24 AM

Manifestations, such as those described above, may or may not be holy. Most of the saints who experienced them tell us to ignore them and just carry on.

#11 Kusanagi

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 11:57 AM

I have yet to read when someone noticed within themselves that they had false grace. This is usually noticed by experienced monks or nuns observing an individual who is getting carried away.

But many times monks do warn to have to be vigilant and not to do canons set by oneself

Here are a couple on this topic by Elder Daniel of Katounakiotis

http://www.johnsanid...stories-of.html

http://www.johnsanid...nd-deluded.html

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 12:36 PM

I am wondering if anyone can share any stories or quotes from the Fathers concerning false perceptions of the grace of God, for example when someone feels that they have grace but in reality they are only experiencing natural psychosomatic feelings / sensations.


This has to do with delusion/prelest and is dealt with in detail in parts of the Evergetinos, which in recent years has been translated into English from Greek. Also we find similar warnings from the collections of the monastic lives of saints (Paterikon) found in the Russian tradition; in the Kiev Caves Paterikon, etc.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#13 Rick H.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:59 PM

I 'think' I know exactly what you are asking here Christina. In the recent past I have searched for an answer from the 'treasury' of Orthodoxy and come up empty. Along the way I have been given references to passages in works and traditions (not unlike Fr. Raphael's last post), and the few times when I have been able to locate certain passages within certain works they have spoken about prelest and delusion in general but not in a way that really gives any kind of answer to the question.

We have had other threads here on monachos where we have discussed different kinds of exercise for the body, different nutritional supplements for the body, and different kinds of meditation and stress relief things and their effect on the body as well as the psyche. In some of these discussions I think we have come close to discovering something resembling distinctions but really no real answers based on anything other than our own individual experiences and opinions. After those who reject and are somewhat offended by these kind of discussions leave, the ones that are left usually bat things around until there is a kind of consensus reached that this is a matter for one's spiritual father (which assumes one has one!). And, for the ones who stick it out until the conversation dies down, there is usually a consensus that this is a matter which falls into the expression, "each as appropriate for oneself" (viz. not a one-size-fits-all thing).

I have been having some back trouble lately and have been feeling overly stiff to the point where it is becoming a real problem lately. I am going to start back with my hatha yoga again very soon. When I do this, based on past experience, I will start feeling very good in my body and soul initially. I will wonder why in the world I stopped doing this as I am reminded what a great thing this is for me in particular. I will become happier in general, more peaceful, more loving and better to be around in general. I will become more focused, less scatterbrained, I will experience monkey mind much less. I will even look more peaceful in my eyes and through the expression on my face. I might even get a few comments from others about these things as they notice them. Then after a few or several weeks, I will probably become a little bit emotional and possibly enter some sort of mild depression as things come out due to certain asanas that are designed to unblock certain energy blockages and open up the center of one's being so to speak. Then after I ride this wave there will be a balancing or a leveling off and I will become joyful but in a calmer way (for the lack of a better expression of this at the present). My body will feel great, I will become more flexible, my circulation will improve, I will have built more muscle in my back and other areas and I will feel much younger. My skin will look better, I will look better and things will look better to me. Then I will see things differently and start to wonder again about what I am experiencing each day as I look at the sky differently, and the trees differently, and see different hues of light that I would not have noticed otherwise. I will feel more loved and be more inclined to love others.

I'll stop rambling now, but this is accurate. And, some could chime in now explaining that I have just laid myself open for attack and provided a perfect picture of the progression of a demonic attack. And, others could share their opinions . . . and we could chase the rabbit once again and run the circle once again, until some drop out and we reach the same conclusions provided above.

I really have spent much energy in the past with this question, especially as it relates to a lifestyle which includes such things as exercise, proper nutrition, stress relief practices; but, I guess now at this stage in the game I do not seem to be involved in the quest for the answer so much.

It is still interesting though to hold this up to the light and spin it a different way, in terms of considering how one may or may not position oneself for the reception of Grace. I think we all know that we are passive receivers of the Grace of God. We do not take it, we can only receive it.

But, even on the level of the natural, how much do we handicap ourselves or do the demons work for them when we create self-inflicted attacks and ignore such things as proper nutrition, exercise, and so on and allow ourselves to get out of balance and cause problems to our bodies and psyches that would not have been there otherwise.

If you do make any progress with this question in a way other than what I have outlined above in the usual circle that is run, I will track down that illusive moderator, from Utah, who is so tight with the coffee vouchers and I will lobby hard for you in order to get you a full years supply!!

Thanks again Christina, you are a blessing here.

#14 Christina M.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 03:09 PM

I am so so glad that people understand my question. I didn't know how to phrase it correctly, so I almost didn't ask it because I thought that no-one would understand what I was trying to say.

Fr. Raphael - thank you so much for the book recommendations! I'll probably try the Kiev Paterikon first, because my brother tried to get me to read that book a few years ago, and it was always on my "to do" list.

Kusanagi - thanks for the links! I will definitely try to read them sometime today.

Rick - I am speechless... and full of joy that you completely understand what I was trying to ask. I don't feel like writing now, but I'll probably come back and write later.

Thanks everyone! :)

#15 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 03:28 PM

Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

#16 Andrew Prather

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 04:35 PM

Herman, which father said the quote you gave?

#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 04:43 PM

St. Paul the Apostle, whom many Fathers quote. Is this going to be a problem?

Herman

#18 Andrew Prather

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 05:05 PM

I mean this one:

If you see your brother being lifted skyward, as if borne by angels, grab his ankle and pull him down, those angels might be demons in disguise! (from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

#19 Christina M.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 06:17 PM

Herman, which father said the quote you gave?

Andrew, JSYK I also was confused on your post #16. I'm sure you know this, but it's better if you reply with a quotation.
I've made the same mistake many times.

#20 Christina M.

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 06:43 PM

Does anyone know where I can order (preferably online) a "Kiev Caves Paterikon" like Fr. Raphael mentioned above? I thought I had a Greek copy, but now I can't find it (I haven't seen it for years, so I'm not sure if I actually have it). But English would be nice anyway, because I read Greek very slowly. Thanks.




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