Spiritual Freedom or Spiritual Slavery?

Right-believing Prince Daniel of Moscow

Right-believing Prince Daniel of Moscow

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


By Saint Theophan the Recluse, from The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It (Letter no. 4)

"Everything is superficial. Beneath the outward appearance that is elegant and smooth is concealed an entirely different spirit, which, if it were to be brought to light, would be found to be neither elegant nor even tolerable. So, it turns out that when we gather together, we are a collection of hypocritical actors and actresses. What a comedy! Furthermore, what I find most astonishing is the coldness coming from everyone. How could this be?...Indeed, everyone seems to be everyone else's friend, ready to give them the shirt off their back, but there is an underlying coldness."

You are quite right. There is nothing more to add to your description. All this has long since been observed and mentioned to forewarn us.

Long ago, Saint Makarios the Great described this bustle of life with its futile pursuit, a little of which you have experienced: "The children of this age have become like wheat poured into the sieve of this earth, and then scattered among the inconstant dreams of this world, in the presence of the unending turmoil of earthly cares, desires and maze of material concepts. Satan shakes the souls, and with the sieve, that is, the earthly cares, scatters the entire sinful human race. From the time of the Fall, when Adam transgressed the law and came under the prince of darkness who gained power over him, with the unending seductive and turbulent thoughts of all the sons of this age, he has led them to conflict in this sieve of the earth. The more the wheat in the sieve is shaken about, turned over and cast up, the more the prince of darkness takes over all people with their earthly cares: he shakes them, agitates them and alarms the, forcing them to flee to vain thoughts, unclean desires, earthly and worldly bonds, and constantly enticing the sinful race of Adam.

The Lord foretold to the Apostles the future coming of temptation over them: 'Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you like wheat: but I have prayed to My Father that thy faith fail not' (St. Luke 33:31-32). The pronouncement and decision spoken by the Creator to Cain is clear: 'Thou shalt be groaning and trembling on the earth' (Genesis 4:12).

This sentence serves as a secret image and likeness to all sinners, because Adam's race, having transgressed the commandment and fallen into sin, secretly took upon itself these likenesses. People are led into uncertainty by inconstant thoughts of fear, terror, every kind of confusion, desire, and all kinds of pleasures. The prince of this world disturbs every soul which is not born from God, and he disturbs human ideas, which are like wheat constantly being shaken in the sieve, leading everyone into uncertainty, and ensnaring them with worldly seductions, pleasures of the flesh, terrors and confusion." (Homily 5:1-2).

"...refuse as much as possible to enter into this circle of worldly life. When it does pull you against your will, act as if you were not there; look, but do not see; listen, but do not hear. Let what you see pass by your eyes, and what you hear pass by your ears. Outwardly behave like everyone else, be straightforward and sincere; but guard your heart from sympathies and attractions.

As for the other aspects of worldly life which you noted, I would just say that it cannot be any other way. For such as life is the life of the fallen man, whose primary characteristic is pride and egoism, which presents itself as the primary goal, while everyone and everything else are the means. Thus, everyone's goal is to impose his desires on someone else, or to bind him by them; you have quite accurately called this "tyranny." No matter how well someone conceals his desires, behind them stands egoism, which desires to twist you to its needs, or to use you as it means. So the goal is one of deception; essentially, it uses the strained contrivance of concealing one's faults without correcting them. Otherwise, one's influence on others and manipulation of them would be stopped. That is the reason that everyone exudes such coldness: everyone shuts himself u in his own shell and is unable to produce any warmth...

The main thing is to guard the heart, then you will be there in body only, but not in soul, faithfully carrying out the commandment of the Apostle: "Be as...they that use this world, (but) don't abuse it" (I Corinthians 7:31). "World" here refers to worldly life. You will be using the world, that is, you will have a need to come into contact with worldly life; but when you keep your heart at a distance, then you will not be abusing that life; that is, you will not be participating in it out of sympathy and desire, but out of being obliged by your present circumstances.

I have worn you out by my long letter, but you compelled me to do it. I ask that you carefully peruse what I have written, especially the last lines." (Source: Orthodox Heritage)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George