On Spiritual Deception – Fr. Dcn. Charles Joiner, South Carolina, USA



On Spiritual Deception

by Fr. Dcn. Charles Joiner


Deacon at Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral,

Greenville, South Carolina Area, USA





The author of the Orthodox Way of Life blog, Fr. Dcn. Charles tells it like it is.

Having recently discovered that throughout much of my Christian life I was involved with “spiritual deception,” I find it necessary now to seek ways to fully understand and totally reject this error.

My deception began with a well meaning pastor at the United Methodist Church where I grew up. I asked him,

“Why are there so many different religions? How can we say that the Christian way the the best way?”

His answer was,

“There are many paths to God. Ours is the most direct and easiest path.”

He did not know how to answer this question from a true Christian perspective and advise me of the struggle that I would necessarily face. I now know that what he taught me was a serious deception. It is very clear now that the other paths will not lead to a God-oriented spiritual life and union with God. They only lead one to a life of self-satisfaction and greater pride.

Jesus Christ came after these early attempts to reach God which were inadequate and showed all mankind how to gain union with God. He showed us the need for extreme humility in our relationship with God. He showed us a path that involves purifying ourselves and continually struggling against many things, yet relying on God’s will. I discovered that the path He opened for us is not an easy path.

It is a difficult one along which we are easily deceived by seeking pleasures though various forms of meditation, yoga and others activities, taught by well meaning teachers from other eastern religions who have not discovered for themselves the way of Jesus Christ.

I now know this from experience, having experimented with Vedanta, a Hindu religion, Buddhism, and Eastern forms of meditation. Regrettably, I even led an effort to find the “universal principles” of all religions and then set up a organization (formally organized as a church under IRS rules, no less) to teach this to others. Oh, how easily we are deceived by psychic level religious experiences which only serve to boost our pride and our sense of self-sufficiency.

Through this experience, I learned that it is essential to recognize that we are engaged in spiritual warfare as Saint Paul so clearly tells us. In my youth I was never prepared for this battle by being properly instructed in the spiritual disciplines.

I didn’t appreciate the power of the Sacraments that Christ initiated for us to help us in this battle. Growing up Methodist, communion was symbolic. It was grape juice and a wafer symbolizing the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Powerless when compared to the actual Blood an Body of Jesus Christ that is offered in the Orthodox Church for remission of sins and eternal life in union with Him. I faced many such deceptions along the path. Fortunately, I have a very strong guardian angel that kept me on a path seeking God and who taught me the Jesus Prayer in the midst of these deceptions.

It was this prayer that protected me and led me back to Orthodoxy.

Seraphim Rose saw this attitude I experienced as one that permeates much of Christianity today. He wrote on this sad condition of “Christians” in his book, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Here is an excerpt.

“The life of self-centeredness and self-satisfaction lived by most of today’s “Christians” is so all-pervading that it effectively seals them off from any understanding at all of spiritual life; and when such people do undertake “spiritual life,” it is only as another form of self-satisfaction. This can be seen quite clearly in the totally false religious ideal both of the “charismatic” movement and the various forms of “Christian meditation”: all of them promise (and give very quickly) an experience of “contentment” and “peace.” But this is not the Christian ideal at all, which if anything may be summed up as a fierce battle and struggle. The “contentment” and “peace” described in these contemporary “spiritual” movements are quite manifestly the product of spiritual deception, of spiritual self-satisfaction––which is the absolute death of the God-oriented spiritual life. All these forms of “Christian meditation” operate solely on the psychic level and have nothing whatever in common with Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is formed in the arduous struggle to acquire the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which fully begins only with the dissolution of this temporal world, and the true Christian struggler never finds repose even in the foretastes of eternal blessedness which might be vouchsafed to him in this life; but the Eastern religions, to which the Kingdom of Heaven has not been revealed, strive only to acquire psychic states which begin and end in this life” (From Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Seraphim Rose, pp 187-188).

Some of my friends will think this is a bit harsh and it is not my intent to condemn those who sincerely seek union with Jesus Christ no matter what their form of Christianity is. But I can say without a doubt, that we can be deceived as I know I was.

For me, I found the fulness of the Truth in the Orthodox Church where the sacramental life is emphasized and practiced with regularity. It was in the context of the Orthodox Church that I found I could surrender and then seek, not my own way, but instead follow the way the Church sets out for all of us.









Through The Eastern Gate

Nilus Stryker, San Francisco, California, USA

From Buddhism to Orthodoxy





Nilus Stryker, San Francisco, California, USA:

I had been a Buddhist for ten years. I was ordained after seven years of study with my teacher in a small family line of the Nyingma Lineage of Vajarayana (Tibetan ) Buddhism. I had a Spiritual Master in that lineage whom I loved and still love. He was, and continues to be an example of kindness in my life. It was through his instruction that I began to see the world with wider eyes and heart. I was ordained as a Ngakpa in the Nyingma Lineage. A Ngakpa is a tantric (priest) ordination that, though there are vows (damsig), those vows are not based on celibacy nor abstention from meat and alcohol. Our sangha were not renunciates but followed basic instruction in tantra and dzogchen; both based on transformation rather than renunciation and sudden moments of insight that flicker in duration and intensity leading to rigpa (a state of mind and perception based on relaxing into the natural state of enlightenment). Those moments were engendered by the energetic intervention of our teacher or our ability to “relax” into the fabric and texture of our experience of being and non being brought about by the practices we were taught. Over the years those moments seem to manifest in seeing the world more and more in kindness, gratitude and compassion. My teacher used to say that Buddhism was ninety nine per cent method and one percent truth. The practices in Buddhism are used to develop a clarity and sense of awareness that enable you to discern a reality not skewed by neurotic mind and habits of response.

We were a non liturgical lineage and had silent sitting and yogic song, mantra, and sets of psycho-spiritual physical exercises as the core of our practice. I made pilgrimages to sacred sites in Nepal and attended retreats with my teacher and vajra sisters and brothers both in the United States and in Wales. Those retreats, both joint and individual, were very meaningful in my life. And, I can definitely say that I had some “openings” of view, widenings of perspective and experience that I attribute to my teacher and the practices I was given.

One afternoon in late January of l999 I went to my altar for my regular daily practice. Usually I began with yogic song and mantra and then did silent sitting. I lit the candles on my altar and after finishing my song and mantras began my silent practice. I cant say exactly how long I had been sitting when I hear my voice say in my own words aloud, “I miss Jesus.” I said this aloud. It seemed like it came through me rather than me saying it but there were no external voices. Clearly I was saying it.

When I said “I miss Jesus” I filled with this longing. I don’t know what else to call it. I ached. I hurt inside. I felt this absolute longing and I couldn’t believe it. I tried to regroup my attention and awareness to continue my meditation. Often in meditation one experiences extra ordinary perceptions, smells, visual illusions, sounds perhaps, psycho-spiritual anomalies that throw one off the track and distract you from the coming and going of thoughts which one is trained to let rise and fall without attachment.

Thoughts come and go but the method I was using tried not to attach to any thought so that one avoid following a thought into an internal narrative or story. . So I tried to see this experience as a nyam (meditational experience) and not put much stock in it. I could not regroup, nor relax and got up. I thought , well that’s early childhood stuff I’m projecting onto my mediation. It’s mommy-daddy stuff about love I didn’t get and wanted and must be about my early childhood Christianity. Though my parents were nominal Christians I had been raised as a Presbyterian mainly because that was the church close to our house. My parents certainly were not Bible Thumpers.

I ended my practice session and went to the kitchen and began doing dishes. I did my household chores and didn’t think about it very much except for the continued sense of longing which did not seem to dissipate. I couldn’t seem to shake the experience no matter how I tried. There was this terrible longing in me that I couldn’t ignore nor explain. I didn’t mention it to my wife yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it nor find relief from the ache and hurt. We had an ordinary evening, watched television for awhile, chatted and then I went into my studio to paint. I am an artist and my studio is attached to our cottage and I sleep there most nights if painting late. After a few restless attempts at working on a canvas I had started I went to sleep.

That night at three in the morning I was awakened by a “presence” in my room . It was a Longing. I don’t know what else to call it. I felt a “presence of Longing” in the room. I was worried that someone had broken into the house. I got out of bed and checked all the rooms.. There was no one (other than my wife) in the house and she was still sound asleep. I decided since I was awake to do some practice and went to my altar in my studio. I mediated for probably thirty to forty five minutes and returned to sleep. The next morning I made sure all the doors were locked and kind of looked around the house uneasily to see if I could find anything that would explain the “presence.” We have no pets and I asked Diane if she had gotten up during the night for any reason. She had slept soundly and asked if there was anything wrong. I told her I had gotten up and couldn’t sleep for awhile. I hesitated to say anything about a sense of a “presence”. I didn’t want to scare her and I didn’t want her to think I was crazy.

The next night I was again “called” awake. I cant tell you exactly what it felt like other than this “presence” was in the room. No lights, no hallucinations, no sounds, no fanfare, no schizo stuff (as far as I understand it), yet most certainly a feeling that I was being called awake by a presence. I can only say in was a “presence of Longing.” I ached inside and hurt and longed for something I couldn’t express. . I felt a million miles from home.

You must understand that my life was pretty happy. My wife, of twenty five years, and I loved each other. We are both artists and had a good business in that field. We had a small cottage and garden in a small Northern California coastal town near San Francisco which we loved. I had a wonderful spiritual teacher and I had taken vows and was committed to my Buddhist Lineage and path. And I was pretty healthy for a fifty some year old fat man. Everything was generally ok. No major crisis. Nothing that seemed to speak to the experiences that I was having nor the incredible sense of longing that I was feeling. I felt like I was in love but I didn’t know with whom or what. I was like a teenage boy in love. I couldn’t stop feeling this ache and longing and confusion. It had all begun when I said “I miss Jesus” yet I couldn’t believe that was really the source of this hurting. It had to be something else. But I didn’t know what. I had tried to sort it out rationally, making an inventory of possible sources, motives, events, that would engender this longing. I was stuck. Nothing I listed seemed to be a reason for the experience of longing, and not certainly the feeling of a presence in my room at night.

Every night for a week I was called awake at three o’clock. I was beginning to get a bit scared. I had no explanation of what was happening nor any idea how I should deal with it. I realized it was beyond anything I had ever experienced and hoped my teacher could help me both to understand and cope with the experiences. If anyone knew what was happening it was him. I finally contacted my teacher in Wales and explained the entire sequence of experiences.. He gave me the name of a Tibetan “deity” to call upon and a mantra associated with that “Awareness Being” ( our sangha used the term Awareness Being as opposed to the traditional term deity). He said if the experiences continued do the practice and recite the mantra he had given me.

That night I was awakened again by the sense of a “presence”., I went to my altar and lit the candles. I sat in silent mediation for a while before using the mantra and calling on the Buddhist deity that I had been instructed to use. It was a powerful mediation. There was a deep quiet and I felt a calm and stillness that seemed to penetrate the room. I called out the name of the Awareness Being as instructed by Rinpoche (an honorific term for a Vajrayana teacher which literally means Precious Jewel). To my surprise I heard a voice say “I am not that.” I can’t tell you where the voice came from. It sounded like my voice even though I have no recollection of actually speaking the words. I cannot tell you exactly if the voice was interior or exterior but it was a voice which clearly and distinctively said, “I am not that.”

I was completely shaken. I sat dumbfounded and in silence. I got up and went out side. It was probably three thirty in the morning and there was a pale moon just visible over the ocean. I sat on our front steps and began to cry. The longing and ache inside had not lessened but seemed to have increased. I was at my wits end and knew something was happening. I just didn’t know what. I cried my heart out. I sobbed . Finally I lifted my head and asked, “Who are you?”
When I said those words something incredible happened. Please understand I have no sense of appropriateness about this. I have no way to even explain how or why it happened. I am the stupidest one. I have no right to even attempt to explain what happened nor to try and say , I, in anyway, comprehend nor deserve what happened. But when I spoke those words, I filled with a soft Light. I know that is hard to understand but I filled with this Light. It wasn’t visible in the ordinary sense. It was a luminosity that filled me . I cannot describe the Light nor describe how light could bring a “knowing.” But I knew that a Light had come inside me and knew me personally. I know that seems impossible but it happened. The Light not only knew me , Miles, a screw up and quick tempered crumudgen, but loved me, actually loved me. Forgive my presumption but it is what I felt. I have no way to tell you how I knew that but I did. I didn’t know what to call it. I felt awkward trying to say God or Christ, yet I felt it had something to do with God and The Christ Logos. I couldn’t bring myself to say that ,however. It seemed too impossible and so loaded with everything I had rejected in Christianity (the Protestant Christianity of my childhood). It was impossible to say the words though I felt like a piece of God had broken off in me and that it was Love. I felt Love. I felt a Divine Love. I felt a Love that came to me personally, like it had called my name as it came inside me. Yet it seemed to be always inside me but I had not known it. It came inside and burst forth at the same time. I know that is hard to even imagine and I have no other words that I can use to try and explain that. If there were any way for me to tell you this in a clearer way I would.

I got on my knees and prostrated myself on the ground. I can’t tell how long I was there but I eventually sat back up on the stairs and again cried. I have no way to explain what I felt. It may be wrong to say but I felt words fall away as the Light entered and I felt a “knowing” in me that seemed to be born with Love. I knew that God loved me yet I couldn’t say the word God. I knew that Christ called me though I couldn’t say the word Christ.

I had come to some realizations in my Buddhism, some small flickers of understanding the Big Picture, through my teacher and my practice but nothing like this.. I was glowing inside with Love and a knowing of Light. It wasn’t a real glow, visible, nor tangible yet I felt like I was shinning inside. I couldn’t tell if God was longing for me or I was longing for God. It seemed almost like we met in the longing. For the first time the Longing seemed to be the experience of the presence of God and my relation to Him. In Buddhism we often talked about finding the presence of our awareness in a life circumstance. In tantra all that is experienced presents the possibility of experiencing enlightenment in that moment. Our practices were often based on finding the presence of awareness in the emotion or life situations we were experiencing. I seem to have found the presence of my awareness in the longing of and by God as Light and Love.

For the first time in my life there was Divine Love, a Love that knew my name. I don’t know how long I sat on the steps. The sky seemed to lighten but I cant say when I went inside. I’m sure I eventually went to sleep but I don’t remember exactly when that was even though I woke up in bed with my clothes on.

The next morning when I told my wife what had happened I said that A Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name had come inside me. I didn’t know what else to call it. I described the experience but I still couldn’t bring myself to say the word God nor could I use the name Christ.

I called it a Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name.

Of course my wife, being a good Californian , asked if I was stoned. We both laughed. It had been a long time since that had been a possibility (no smoking of anything allowed in our sangha) but she listened and I told her the details. I knew at that point that everything was different. Somehow Love had entered the picture and life as I knew it had come crashing down. My teacher was an atheist and the Buddhism that I had learned certainly did not present the idea of a creator God nor a divinity that was a source of Love. We spoke of compassion and wisdom, kindness and awareness but rarely was the word love ever mentioned, and certainly not within the context of a Divine Love. My wife was scared I could tell. No matter how much we joked about it she felt that everything was up for grabs. She didn’t know where it would lead me. I didn’t know either. Everything had become pretty stable in our lives. That night everything was shaken to the core and my wife sensed it.

When The Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name infused me with itself I knew things I could not explain. I experienced a personal Love from a Source that was beyond anything I had experienced before. It was wonderful and terrible at the same time.

Why couldn’t I use the word God nor Christ? What held me back.? It seemed too chilling to even think that this was either, yet for the first time it seemed possible. It was possible that his was God’s Love. It was possible that this was an experience of The Christ. I guess in some ways that was too uncool to say. I certainly didn’t want to be a Christian. I had castigated Christians as hypocrites and idiots for years. As a Buddhist I was a bit kinder in that regard but I still had no intention of being a Christian nor any desire to explore that path. I never really could get rid of a concept of a God even though Rinpoche said I had to deal with my idea of God in relationship to blame. I blamed God for a lot of stuff in my life and he said to grow spiritually I had to let go of the concept of blame. He was right.

One world was opening and another was falling away. The vows I had made in becoming a Ngakpa were taken as lifelong vows. The commitment I had made were seen as “lives long” commitments both to my teacher and my lineage. Now I faced the fact that there was a Creator of Love, a Source of Love and a Spirit of Love that was unexplainable in my Buddhism, and from my experience, a reality that could not be denied. I struggled with what to do. I had no context to help sort out the experience. My teacher’s atheism seemed to preclude the possibility of him understanding the reality that had just come alive in my life. I had had an experience that seemed to turn my Buddhism inside out. The structure of our practice and the instruction of my teacher seemed limited and I must admit incomplete. I knew my teacher was wrong about God. What was I going to do?

Pantelemon David Walker is my acupuncturist and a member of the Orthodox Church in America . We had discussed Buddhism and Christianity for months as he treated me. The next week I had an appointment with him. After we greeted each other he said, ” I have a book for you I think you will enjoy.” It was Christ The Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene. That night I poured through the book. I have no idea when I went to sleep but I read for days and it gave me a base for sorting out the experiences that I had been having in relation to The Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name.

I knew there was a Source of Love and an Energy of Love yet I hesitated to call it The Holy Spirit. I had left my childhood Christianity far behind. The words still stuck in my throat.

David suggested I try and attend an Orthodox church and mentioned an OCA Church in San Francisco. Yet that seemed too weird, too much of a commitment to a religion I had left. I wanted something that wasn’t based on an institutional setting. The last thing I wanted to do was get involved in a church. After all I was a Buddhist. Why was I being drawn into another religion, especially Christianity.? I had made a commitment to my teacher and lineage. I shouldn’t be exploring at this late date any other form of worship. But my Buddhism didn’t address or acknowledge the experiences I had just had in relation to the Divine. I knew as certainly as I knew anything else that the experiences I had of A Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name were real and true. My teacher said there was no God and I knew that I had experienced Divine Love personally.

I resisted the idea of a church yet Orthodoxy had an ancient contemplative tradition and a way of working in deepening and widening a personal sense of transformation of self in relation to the Divine. Fr. Damascene’s book opened me to the possibility of at least exploring (without) commitment a tradition in Christianity that was far beyond any Christian tradition I had ever heard of. I called the Holy Trinity Cathedral (an OCA church in San Francisco.) A man answered the phone and I asked if the services were in English. He said in a thick Russian accent “broken.” I cracked up laughing. I already liked his deadpan sense of humor. I got times for Liturgy and thanked him,
On Sunday February the seventh I woke and dressed and told my wife I was going to find a church. She was shocked. What? she shouted.

“I know, don’t ask. I’ll be back in awhile.”

It was pouring down rain and the streets were pretty empty. I drove into San Francisco and had a vague notion of a Russian church with blue domes downtown. The listing for Holy Trinity Cathedral was on Green street and I thought I was headed in that direction. I finally saw the dome and cross. There is never any parking around that area so as I approached I said to myself. “If there’s parking I’ll stop, if not I’ll go to Burger King.” The minute I said it a person pulls out of a space across from the church. “Ok, ok I’ll go.” I walked into the church on February the seventh, l999. I didn’t know it at that time but it was Prodigal Son Sunday.

In Tantra all the sense fields are used in one’s practice. The senses are not denied but used to both open and relax into the natural state of one’s own enlightenment. When I walked into the church I felt this vast display of light and fragrance. I was met at the door and welcomed. When asked if I was Orthodoxy I responded quickly ( and probably brusquely) I wasn’t a Christian I was Buddhist. I stood in the rear and watched . As the Liturgy began the music and cant and readings seemed to fill the room as much as the light and fragrances. The whole service seemed to become this elaborate ritual of the senses. It was wonderful and it scared me to death. There was something that felt right. If only it didn’t have to be so Christian. After services I was asked to join folks for lunch. I did. There was good conversation and even an interest in my Buddhism. I left feeling like I had found a new kind of Christianity. Definitely not the Christianity of my childhood. I returned the following Sunday.

I began to listen to the words in the Liturgy. Soon I began to come to some of the evening services and was amazed at what was being recited. I had never heard of a theology that was sung and canted along with the readings. More and more I began to realize that there was a Christianity in Orthodoxy that was vaster and deeper then I knew. And I began to hear references to the Light , a Light which seemed to have a lot in common with my experience of A Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name. There was even a theology that acknowledged the Light and used that Light as a description of how God, Logos, and The Holy Spirit call and love.. I began to feel more comfortable with the words God and Christ. Of course my wife and friends felt very uncomfortable hearing me begin to use those dreaded words. Most folks became silent when they heard I was attending a Christian church, much less an Orthodox Christian church. I still was attending my Buddhist group and knew that when my teacher arrived in March that we had to talk. I felt like I was sneaking around in away going to a Christian church and I didn’t want to do that. But I had to try and sort out my experiences and felt like the church offered some possibility for answers that neither my teacher nor my Buddhist lineage seemed to be able to explain..

Fr. Damascene’s book had been the catalyst for that exploration and the unfolding of the church in my life seems an almost natural progression from that initial reading of his book. The more I attended the services the more I felt like this was a place I could be comfortable as a Christian. Though you must realize I never used that word. I still resisted. I still hung back. I lurked on the edges of Christianity, in the shadows of the candles as much as in the light. I resisted and resisted prostrating and crossing myself. That was just going too far. I was still a Buddhist. I was just visiting Christianity. That way I could still attend and explore but not make a commitment.. One night Matushka Barbara came over and asked if I wanted to learn how to cross myself. When I said yes, I surprised myself.
I know it seems odd but crossing myself made a difference in how I saw myself and how I begin to worship. It was the first sign I would make publicly that acknowledged that I trusted Christianity and had begun to see myself within the Christian frame. It’s hard to explain. It’s such a simple act but in many ways it became my first act of Christian acknowledgement. It became the first sign that I was “putting on Christ.”. I had been raised to hate Papist. My father was raised German Luthern and he hated the Catholic church. I still had that in me. But I crossed myself that night and other nights as I began to more and more attend services and look to Orthodoxy for answers and a new form of devotion.

In Vajrayana Buddhism you view your teacher as an enlightened being who represents fully your path toward that goal. One prostrates to their teacher as a sign of complete respect and as a sign of dependence upon them for your spiritual advancement and realization. I would prostrate to my teacher without any reservation (except for my fat and my knees). In the Orthodox church one prostrates before God, before, Christ, before the Holy Spirit. One Prostrates before images of saints as an act of devotion and respect. I still would not do the prostrations. There was something in my stubbornness that didn’t even make sense to me. I knew it was weird to be able to prostrate before a teacher and still not do it toward God. Somehow it seemed easier to trust a man rather than the Divine. I would cross myself but I wouldn’t prostrate. Here I was literally pulled from bed, called in a away that even I seemed to hear, and have this incredible experience of Light and Love in a personal way, and yet my pride and stubbornness still resisted a richer and fuller expression of devotion. I would not bend. I wouldn’t bow down before God. Something was still strongly resisting the call Christ and the Orthodoxy church. Though I knew I couldn’t turn back.

Great Lent is a time of intense spiritual evaluation. The whole church collectively begins a journey toward Jerusalem with Christ. The entire forty days becomes a cosmic drama suspended in a time I had rarely experienced in Buddhism. Time seems to drop away almost in relation to how the services lengthen. Somehow time was being used to destroy time.

I had attended long rituals in Buddhism. I had on occasion felt that they had going quicker than I had expected. But I had never experienced time in an “eternal” way. I know again how difficult that is to understand but the increased length of the services and Liturgies actually seemed to collapse into a timelessness that I had never felt so intently. Every word of the hymn or service seemed to be directed at me. Every verse about being lost and confused and put upon by life’s circumstances was read for me. I was found by Love but still lost. I left every evening feeling that everything that had been sung, or canted was what I would have said, if I could have said anything as beautiful and true. I let the choir sing my praises and the reader cant my love. More and more as Lent deepened and became vaster and wider and, I must say, more sorrowful. I began to experience time in the church like no other time.
Even though spending hours in mediation and weeks in solitary retreat, time had never become so still. The services of Great Lent began to change me. One night during the Great Compline (I think). My knees bent. I felt myself kneeling before God and I felt so terrible about holding back. I felt like such a fool and prideful idiot. Everything in me had told me of Christ’s Great Good Heart and I had refused His embrace. When my head touched the floor, God broke my heart. I sobbed. As Fr. Victor came cense the Icon near me I knew he heard me crying. I couldn’t stop. I was so embarrassed. I felt so exposed. There were folks I had been with on a regular bases for weeks who stood near me in the church. They had seem me arrogant in My Buddhism, They had seem stand back. They had seem me cross myself and still hold back. And now they saw my knees bend and my head touch the wooden floor and me cry when God broke my heart.

He broke my heart right there. I can point to the spot. He had called me in the night. He had entered me as Light. He now broke my heart. I can’t explain it any clearer. God broke my heart and my arrogance and my aloneness and had made loneliness impossible. He held me suspended in time and Love and I was not worthy of one iota of it.
Now I was broken with Love. I was a beggar. I am a beggar.

The evening services became more frequent and intense. My wife was angry that I was away so much and we disagreed often. I wasn’t getting a lot of personal support for continuing this move toward the Christian Path. My friends thought I was crazy. My Buddhist sangha members didn’t even know of my parallel church attendance. The more I was drawn toward the church the greater the forces seemed to be pulling me back. The contradictions and hypocrisy of my own participation as a Buddhist in a Christian church was obvious even to me.

It wasn’t until that night that I realized there was no turning back. I was in Love and I had to get as close as I could to that Source of Love. I think I went a little bit crazy for awhile . The longing didn’t stop. It seemed to get deeper as Great Lent progressed. I cried at the drop of a hat. I’d walk down the street and see an old couple holding hands and I’d brim over with tears. I was lost at services and Liturgy. I’d hear the bells ring with the beginning of the recitation of the Creed and I have to turn away with tears. My nose running was bad enough. . I tried to tell Diane that I could bring a thousand editions of great books to back up each sentence of the Creed and they would collapse before a handful of tears. I begin standing in the corner because I was so embarrassed. I missed being up front hearing the choir more fully but I stood in my corner and felt like this beggar getting warmed by a hobo fire.
I wrote to both Fr. Damascene, who was in Alaska, and to the rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fr. Victor Sokolov, to tell them of what was happening to me and my growing need to address the possibility of exploring Orthodoxy more seriously. Fr. Damascene responded with a wonderful letter and encouragement. I was very moved by his kindness. I asked to meet with Fr. Victor.

I knew that my teacher was soon to arrive and I called and asked to schedule some time together. I had broken my vows to him not because I was beginning to embrace Christianity but because I didn’t trust him enough to understand the experience of the light that is not light that knows my name. I felt since he took an atheist position he would not understand a priori the essence of the experience of the Light. That was actually when I broke my vows. I violated that teacher student trust. then not by asking to leave my vows. It was in that breach that I was actually able to open to the fuller expression of the Holy Spirit/ I had committed part of myself to not open because of my vows. Those Buddhist Vows were at one time the center of my identity and life. I tried to take the vows seriouslu. I loved Rinpoche . I still do. I felt this incredible responsibility to mystically continue a train of thought and method that helped people see the patterns which hold them back from relaxing into the natural goodness of being and non-being. I had made a commitment to that and I still hope there is a part of that commitment toward goodness and liberation in me.

I met with Rinpoche and we began to talk. I asked if we could move from the living room into his private room for some privacy. I know he sensed an uneasiness. I told him what had happened, tried to explain The Light That Is Not Light experience fully . I think he saw in me that the experience was real. Maybe it was reflected in the tears. Again I was lost in these tears of joy and terror. I was afraid I had cut a cord that nourished me spiritually. I had asked to be taken out of the line of energy that moves through the cosmos like a rive. I had been taken out of the stream. I was this former Buddhist. All my gods had been taken away; my images of consciousness, the way the world was becoming reflected. The Yidams and Protectors that I shared a world with were no longer there for me. It was a strange loss. but it was a powerful one.

Rather suddenly I asked to be released from my vows. It kind of exploded out of my mouth,. I felt terrible. I heard my own words ask to be released from my vows and I felt I had betrayed a man that I loved and who loved me dearly. He was my Spiritual Father for almost eight years. I knew I was hurting him . I was hurting him because he loved me and I knew it and I had made a commitment to add to this stream of lineage until all beings had been liberated. It was more than a personal vow to him alone. I knew that. Those methods of viewing and identifying in the vast scope of beings and worlds and energies was the central reference points of my life. There are streams of liberation in Buddhism that have specific cosmologies and ways of seeing the world. They are all refer to the base of their religion on compassion and awareness. I was asking not to be apart of more than a sangha.

Everything was etched in sadness. Rinpoche said he would release me from my vows. He said for me to explore the Christian Path for a year and within that year if I wished to return to my vows He saw that I had gone through some transformation but I have no idea what he saw. He as always opted for kindness and created the possibility of a spaciousness in a terrible moment. He always could turn a moment of flux in beingness upside down. That’s why he was such a good teacher for me. He turned my patterns of reaction to the world inside out. But it was through the experience of God’s Light that everything seemed to be over ridden I told him I wasn’t going to hold back that I was going to go into this as deeply as I could.

He said my only responsibility to him was to be a good Christian.

I think we cried together. That’s the way I remember it . But it could have been just me. I left kind of in shock. I felt like someone had died. I felt this terrible feeling like there has been an accident and everything changes in a second. That terrible moment where the fifteen year old kid is holding a gun and touches the trigger. There is that tearing moment of certainty and dread where something is born and something fades into the last moment. Rinpoche had always tried to show us how to transform those moments into points of awareness.

I was driving over the Bay Bridge and it suddenly struck me that beyond the sorrow was a sense of certainty the decision was right. It was a strange bitter sweet memory of The Light That Is Not Light That Knows My Name. Even in all the distress there it was. I begin to remember and recall everything from the call in the night and looking for burglars. I forget God all the time. That’s my problem. I forgot God for twenty years.

I had been called awake literally and taken to the gate and asked in. I tried to remember the first time I crossed myself and the place where God broke my heart.

Sometimes God has to hit us idiots over the head with a 2 X 4 before we get it. My stomach was in knots yet there was some sense of a point that was ok. There was this small point of calm. There was an eye in the storm. Doubt and sorrow were an atmosphere surrounding this small bead of the certainty of God’s Love. It was a matter of remembering and remembering throughout the day, somehow, that it was there.

One time in the television show X Files Files, Scully ends the show by saying something like, “suppose He’s calling all the time and no one is listening.” Years ago I would have said it was a matter of frequency. Now I think it’s a matter of Grace. Finally there was a destination in this strange confluence of time, circumstance and Mysterion. There seems to be in this great drama and economy of the being an emptiness a center Source of Love that become The Word (Logos) and Spirit to sweep through all that is and is not calling everyone and thing back to Divine Love.That’s as close as I can get to it. But there seems to be a possibility that I am absolutely right. I e-mailed Fr. Victor that I had been released from my Buddhist vows. I asked to meet so I could find out how one continues from here. I continued to attend services during Great Lent. By the time Pascha arrived I was tired. In fact I was worn out. I was drained and empty accept for this little Light that stood somewhere in the back. Everything had been turned upside down. At least I think this is the chronology. Yet the whole flow and confluence of circumstance seemed to ebb and flow a tad faster than I could follow. It all was turned inside out in a few months. “Busted in the Blinding Light,” I think the song goes.

I met with Fr. Victor and we talked. He suggested a few books and encouraged me to continue to attend services . He reminded me that there was a study group every few weeks after Vespers. It was a very congenial meeting He didn’t know when he said it But it was probably one of the most important pieces of advice anyone could give to a Buddhist who was looking toward Christ. He said it quickly and in kind of an off hand way. He stopped and turned and said. “Even if you have nothing , you offer nothing. It was at that moment God made the world seem abundant and Fr. Victor helped. I realized that I could offer God anything. I could give him my sadness and depression, my anger and distrust. In fact on a good day he could get some joy and a cluster of happiness. It was a very important thing for me to hear. Whether it is a paraphrase of someone else or not I don’t care. At that moment those words were Fr. Victor’s . and they have been with me ever since. Never has there been one moment since then that I didn’t have something to offer to God.

The closer I moved to the church the more tense it became at home. Diane missed me and wasn’t real subtle about letting me know it. Of course after twenty three years (at that time) she knew subtle didn’t work with me. I’m too stupid. . The most difficult personal breaks were with dear friends in my Buddhist group. I asked my teacher’s permission to tell my vajra sister and brother (my closest relations in the group) the entire tale so they would know exactly what happened. I’m afraid we didn’t seem to share a base of experience nor language. No matter what I said had happened they saw that I had broken my vows. It was very hurtful and difficult for folks to hear. As I said more was at stake than just a small group of people. We were talking about the continuation of a Lineage and those vows were part of that commitment. Their anger was actually a sign of their devotion to Rinpoche. They felt betrayed and hurt and angry. I was breaking a spiritual bond between us . They were right. But I still had a very hard time trying to understand what seemed to me a lack of love. There has been a long silence.

On May twenty third of l999 I was Baptized into the Orthodox Church in America. The following copy of a letter I sent my priest may convey some of what the Sacrament meant to me.

«Dear Father Victor- Tonight please let me talk about Mystery… Today was magic and somehow consummated four months of trying to accept the MYSTERY of God’s Being and deep Longing for each of us. I know this is just the beginning. I know I am so new and young in this that there is a danger that the power of this joy will make me think I know things I do not. But today was wonderful- wonder filled- full of wonder.

The incredible gratitude I felt yesterday was incomplete, faint, stupid. I was not complete in gratitude-empty in gratitude. I am not now, nor ever will be able to fill myself with God’s gratitude in the way that could be of any use to Him. I am a poor example of devotion but for me this day is a measure of brimming over-spilling on the floor-ruining the carpets with gratitude- filling the basement with gratitude-How can I possibly give back to God? What could I even conceive of that could be an offering? I can’t imagine ever being able to express this springtime in me- these flowers in my veins- this garden that has worms and slugs and bird shit on the roses. But If I could it would be today. I would go to God and offer him this day as what I could give. I would empty my pockets with this day. I would turn myself inside out with this day and say, “Please, Lord it is the best I have. Please take this from me- This Day.”

I am like a song leaping into the cold sea-salt tears and Grace run down my cheeks- My wife stands watching just a heartbeat away. I hear the choir. I catch her eye . I watch you move toward me. It’s in slow motion- some film shot out of time. There is breath. There is your breath- there is God’s breath -there is my breath -the church breathes with this light. I know it sounds like I’m talking magic here. Yes! God’s magic- God’s moment gift to me this day and mine to Him. Please cut my hair take what you think He’ll like-I don’t care what Fr. Schmemann might say about magic. Its not your magic, though you are part of it. Its not my magic, though I am part of it. But this wonderful day is God’s ordinary magic. Each leaf-each day- each ten thousand ants that crawl in this day shimmer in magic. Because we are blind and turn away we don’t see it in God’s magical way. But when you begin to see- it seems like Grace is everywhere. God’s ordinary magic breaking through my blindness and shallowness and myopia.

I watch your cross in front of me-the gold and the diffuse sun-the white material of your vestment-the words calling me to ring like bells. I am only standing there. I am only this still person standing in this beautiful place. There is a fullness I have never known-a sense of being known by God deep inside me. I am sure in this. His music sends shivers through me- coral blue violins and cello, oboe and flute-good dark beer that tastes like wheat- Liturgy and sweat and inside me laughter mixing with reunion dance at an airport. My heart’s deep crevices, those dark hidden sad places-those places that I have closed to Love for all my life seem touched by a Great Kindness. The snow is melting. I feel it inside me. The glaciers are turning into lakes. The bears move south and the birds fly inside me to the warm forest just over the last ridge. The doors are open and the wind is blowing the curtains. There is a patch of warm sunlight on the floor and specks of dust shine in the air, swirling as the patterns of a dancer’s skirt brush the floor.

Dear Father Victor this is not a second chance it’s a first chance. I am new to life. I really am. I am new to this world. I have never felt like this newness. I feel clean. I really do-I feel clean inside. I feel like menthol everywhere. I feel like I’ve never seen sunlight before. I am amazed by people’s eyes. The small wrinkles around their mouths when they smile. The way the morning shines through them and not just on them. They look so wonderful- they still look wonderful.

The water washed me. Please believe me. I never thought I could understand this nor even say this.

The oil blessed me. Sealed me in the Body of a timeless Church. That is true.- It is timeless and has always existed in God (before words).

Please understand that this is real. This isn’t some archetype-nor symbol- nor ritual trapped in a small church in San Francisco. It is real and it is Wonderous and it is from God to us all. Everything in me says that that is true. I remember Johann’s hand on my arm helping me as I stepped into the Jordan River. I remember the sun and Christ through the Royal Doors. I remember Diane crying on the banks. I remember your voice and I remember how God spread the constellations through the night sky and held me under the water and took me up and washed me and lifted me up to show the world that a new child had been born.

As a friend of mine used to say “pulled kicking and screaming into Glory.”

You lead me from the river, my clothes sticking to me, gripping your hand wrapped in vestments-the desert sand burning my feet-joy mesmerized in my heart-watching each step and the smiles and eyes of the church living in the morning. On the banks the people waited. My wife watched and those wonderful folks who have encouraged me since Prodigal Son Sunday to come back- always come back. That formula for repentance- to come back- to always come back-that course of freedom to return-that freeway that FREE WAY of return and repentance- when God broke my heart. I can show you the place where God broke my heart in your church- in our church. I can show you where I wiped the floor with my sleeve after prostrating finally to Him and called out to Him and answered Him. How could I go anywhere else? What place could be more home? I want to be in the place where God broke my heart.

When I approached the chalice I returned home. I am home.

I grew up taking communion but I have never really taken part in the Eucharist. Today I was given through Grace the opportunity to eat of The Body and drink of the Blood of Christ. I never had experienced that before though I have often taken communion. There are no real words for that- That is a Mystery I can not even begin to speak of. I am dumb before this. I am only grateful beyond measure and blessed into silence.

And I am finally home. Can you believe these words? I am finally home. God loves me. Me! I think this is true. I know this is true. God, for some unknown reason- loves me. He loves me as me- with a name, my name. God knows my name! And He loves me! God knows my heart and brain and fat and muscle and He loves me. God knows my every thought and fear and pain and He still accepts me. That is the most incredible reality possible. Oh Father, Today was God’s great gift to me and mine to Him. I am empty before this. I am poor and empty before this.

Yet in that emptiness of mine I am full of Him. Do you see that? My words are so limited. But today I was emptied and today I was filled. You held the cup for God. That is what He has given you to do. You breathed on me as a representative of the Body of Christ and washed and anointed me with His oil. That is what He has given you to do. You gave me drink and you gave me eat. That is what He has given you to do. But +He+ emptied me today and +He+ filled me today with His Grace.

That is the Mystery we shared today. You and I and the great goodhearts that make up The Body of The Church. It was my journey-mine- with a name ( in the emptiness and fullness of Grace) and ours as a Church.

I have been shaken awake by water and Grace and God’s Love. I have been anointed with oil in this time and forever in God’s Being. I have been renewed, found and called forth, forgiven and forgiven and forgiven. I have been infused with an understanding of a Mystery that is beyond my understanding. I am an idiot in Love. A beggar and fool and sinner. I have been embraced in Holy Spirit and named before a Church that has existed forever. Today was wonderous and beyond measure. I am dumb before this-numb with gratitude and thanksgiving-tired and happy- and ready to rest in God’s comfortable night.

Please know I offer today to God. You’re part of that. Barbara and Johann and Ann and Anna and Elaine and everyone are part of That. My Beloved wife Diane is part of that . And me. I am part of that too. No words remain tonight, Father. Just Thank-fullness and prayer and silence and sleep.- Goodnight, Love in Christ (that is also true isn’t it? Isn’t that absolutely incredible!)- Nilus».

Esoterik Yoga östliche Religion, dämonen, Götter Heil oder Unheil? – Klaus Kenneth, Deutschland – German video






Esoterik Yoga östliche Religion, dämonen, Götter Heil oder Unheil?

Klaus Kenneth, Deutschland



Esoterik, Yoga, Buddhismus, östl. Mystik, Übersinnliches, Heilsangebote: etwa jeden Monat ein Neues!

“Zeit meines Lebens habe ich gelernt , Theorie, Theologien und allen -ismen gründlichst zu misstrauen.

Mit geschickten Worten und etwas Erfahrung in Psychologie kann man jeden Menschen alles andrehen. Wo war der Guru, der seine Lehre lebt? Die wirklichen Motive waren Sex, Macht oder Geld”.’

Herzlose Erbarmungslosigkeit’, ‘gnaden’ -lose Egozentrik lassen uns in die Falle eines Ersatz-Lebens, einer ‘viritual reality’laufen. Wer will schon glauben, dass Yoga eine einbahnstrasse in die Selbstvernichtung ist?

Die Fata Morgana sind wir selbst, solange wir von Gott getrennt sind.







Saint Paisios of Greece (+1994) on Yoga & Hinduism




Skagsanden, Lofoten, Norway - Simon Byrne Photography www.simonbyrnephotography.com #skagsanden #norway #snow

What Yoga Really Is


Johannes Aagaard

Aarhus University, Danmark





The philosophy of yoga can be expressed as follows:

“Ashes are fire, ashes are water, ashes are earthy everything is ashes, mind, sight, and the other senses are ashes.” (Atharva Siras)

All things in life are transitory, and pain, suffering, and death lurk behind everything. All of life with its omnipresent suffering and death goes on and on in an eternal cycle (samsara or the reincarnation cycle) from which no one escapes. Life is an endless wandering through relentless and insurmountable suffering. The future holds only further rebirths, and whether one is inching towards a better life or sinking into worse life makes little difference.

For all life is ashes.

Hinduism in all its various forms is first of all an attempt: escape from this relentless cycle of rebirth. It is not death wish because the aim is to escape death as well as life. Hindus wish to escape from life with good reason – for life on the Indian subcontinent is hard. Sickness of every kind, famine due to drought or flood, war and oppression make life an unbearable succession of suffering and defeat. The religious faith of the hindus which grows out of their painful experience of life finds its foremost expression in the god Shiva and his consort Kali.

Fear of death

The various Hindu techniques for liberation are attempts to be free of both life and death. Even those who fail to reach the ultimate goal can at least reduce their involvement with life. This is the aim of yoga. By practicing yoga one can reduce suffering and defer death by reducing or completely halting the normal life

An important text of hatha yoga expresses it this way

  1. As long as prana is held in the body, so long consciousness (cittam) (is) free from disease. What cause is there for fear of death so long as the sight (resins fixed) between the eyebrows’
  2. Therefore, from the fear of death, Brahma (is) intent on pranayama, as are also Yogis and sages. Therefore, one should restrain the prana.” (Gozaksa Sataka)

As expressed in this text the source of yoga is the fear of death, and the way to avert death is to hold back breathing. The same hatha yoga techniques will hold back and immobilize other life functions.

Hatha Yoga Techniques

Hatha yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) are not intended to lead to better breathing, but to the reduction or complete cessation of breathing! In the same way hatha yoga body postures (asanas) are intended to immobilize the whole body. Practicing them will enable the body to become completely motionless and hardened in fixed positions. Meditation words (mantras) serve to immobilize the consciousness. Mantras are usually the names of gods used for worship. Symbolic body movements (mudras and bandhas) in yoga are designed to close all “nine doors of the body”, so that no sense perception from the outside penetrates into the mind. When all outer sensation is shut off the body itself will create as compensation sense perceptions of an inner kind, an inner light, an inner sound, an inner smell, an inner pleasure.

So the objective of yoga is not to affirm people’s lives, but to create another inner life as a substitute for the life one wants to escape. A whole inner new universe, an internal new dimension awaits those who meditate, those who are willing to become a disciple and follow the path of a guru. That is the ultimate aim of the techniques taught in all yoga schools and yoga classes throughout the world.

In yoga there are no neutral techniques. The entire discipline from beginning to end is intended to lead toward an escape from life and death and to serve the higher aims of yoga.

Tantra Yoga

This higher yoga has many names. Distinctions can be made between the yoga of the emotions (bhakti), the yoga of action (karma), and the yoga of knowledge (jnana). However more important than all of these is the greater or higher yoga called Tantra yoga. Tantra yoga itself can be called kriya yoga, laya yoga, kundalini yoga, and raja yoga. The three class!c yogic disciplines of bhakti, karma, and jnana demand many reincarnations for training in order to break free from the cycle of life and death. In contrast, tantra yoga is the direct but also the most dangerous path. Most yoga schools teach that mankind is in a state of decay (kali yuga) and our desperate situation requires a desperate remedy. Tantra yoga is the desperate remedy, and most yoga schools and gurus are tantric in one way or another.

While the classic yogic systems either reject or play down sexuality, Tantra does completely the opposite. Along with the classic systems Tantra desires to escape from the samsaric cycle and perceives life as a poison, but Tantra intends to drive out evil with evil, poison with poison. This is where sexuality enters into tantra yoga. This is not immediately apparent to a newcomer, because like many other oriental religions yoga functions at two levels showing one face outwardly and a completely different face inwardly. This is why yoga is couched in w hat Hindus call “twilight language” which hides as much as it reveals, and is deliberately ambiguous. Thus the key concepts in yoga, such as bindu (semen) and prana (life force) have both a physical and a symbolic meaning.

Semen Mysticism

It is a basic tenet of Tantra yoga that normal sexual activity uses up the life force and exposes the individual to sickness and death. Consequently it is not only prana in the sense of breathing that must be held back, but first and foremost bindu (semen) which must be conserved. The holding back of breath and all other techniques in Tantra yoga serve the ultimate aim of retention of semen. Retention of semen can lead to immortality or at least rejuvenat man in a way which holds off death. For this to happen semen must be transformed in to nectar, ambrosia, soma, the elixir of life, the drink of immortality. This is the deepest core, the very center of all that yoga is concerned with.

The Kundalini Serpent

The full details cannot be explained in a short presentation, but the culmination of yogic practice is ritual sexual intercourse (maithuna) using the various techniques of hatha yoga. Yoga uses the orgasm as the determining experience for both liberation from the samsaric cycle of life and death and confusion with the divine. In reality what takes place is the divinization of the human.

This takes place through meditation on the kundalini serpent. Prana or life force is identical with sexuality and is portrayed by the kundalini or coiled serpent which resides behind the human genitals. She (the life force/serpent is seen as feminine) must be awakened and forced from her spot at the bottom of the spinal column into a canal within the spinal column and then up through this canal. On the way up she will pass through a number of points called chakras. At each chakra she receives more and more energy and becomes more and more divine.

This process of divinization should manifest itself in supernatural powers for the person meditating. For example the meditator could levitate, or walk through walls, or be in two places at one time. The acquisition of supernatural power is called siddha yoga and is found all over the world. Siddha yoga is represented by TM which promises its meditators the power to levitate, but of course only upon the payment of a large fee.

The Great Death – Immortality

After all the difficult hatha yoga techniques and exercise: are put into practice, the serpent is forced to the top of the brain and a cosmic culmination takes place with a superorgasm. What occurs in reality is an orgasmic experience which when coupled sith strongly hallucinogenic feelings, has an extremely violent character. Symbolically the experience is explained as sexual intercourse between the god Shiva, who reigns supreme in the human brain, and his consort Kali, who is his potency and identical with the Kundalini.

This orgasmic experience is understood as the Great Death by which one escapes the manifold world, and by which one experiences the great freedom. From this experience only the “chosen” come back, as gurus who devote themselve. to the liberation of others. Ordinary people according to yogic doctrine should die within three weeks of this experience of full liberation. This death – and no other – leads away from all life and all death, to total freedom.

Escape from Death to Death

It is ironic that a religiosity so driven by fear of death should culminate in the Great Death. This is because yoga

is founded not only on the fear of death, but on the fear of life as well. Yoga therefore seeks to go beyond life and death to what can he called eternal Death, free from sickness, suffering, and all that is transitory.

A thorough reading of the central texts of yoga reveals that the root of yoga resides in the problem of old age. Yoga was developed as an old man’s attempt to stop the decay of the body, to put off death and at the came time to prepare the individual for death by a gradual withdrawal from life. This withdrawal is social, as an elderly man would leave his own environment to live in isolation in the forest or mountain. But the withdrawal is also mental and physical, as the individual draws back from ordinal life functions. The latter can even be accomplished while one remains in the same social environment. The truth of the matter is that yoga; was first of all developed for elder mer This sexist aspect of yoga is also seen in the centrality of semen mysticism.

Yoga for health

Many people who practice yoga will object that they are not interested in such theoretical rubbish, for from their own experience they know that yoga does them good. They have became healthier with it. This attitude should be respected, but also correctly understood.

A comparison can make this clear. It is a fact that it has done many young men good to have been soldiers. They have been taught discipline and self-control and have become stronger and more healthy. This fact does not alter another fact, that the army itself has a completely different aim, namely to teach people to kill. In the same way it can be said that the aim of yoga is not identical with its side effects and it is a fact that many meditating people, after a period with positive results, experience extremely alarming “harmful” results. We call these results “harmful” but they are in fact the desired effect. What happens is that one gradually loses the ability to lead an active, open extroverted life centering on loving interdependent relationships with others. The meditator gradually withdraw into his self and is less able to relate with other people. Slowly the meditator accepts this as valid – for as time goes on the practice of yoga leads to an acceptance of the theory of yoga.

One Is Taken Where One Does Not Want To Go

If a person practices yoga with the intention of becoming a Hindu this is of course perfectly all right, because freedom of religion is necessary and people ought to be able to practice their religion according to their convictions. However the vast majority of people who practice yoga are taken where really they had no intention of going They are transformed into people with new values, they become Hinduized, and this was not at all their intention. They began to practice yoga because it was presented as an art of life, when in reality it is an art of death developed to help first of all elderly men cope with the end of their lives.

If a person intends to escape from a normal life of social interaction and intends to “establish oneself as a God”, then yoga is the way. If one wants to abandon one’s Christian faith and its love for others and for life itself, then yoga is the best way. But most people are unsuspectingly drawn into yoga. Even some Christians defend yoga because they are ignorant of its factual reality.

It is, therefore, necessary to expose the facts concerning yoga, not in order the deprive yoga teachers of their livelihood or gurus of their disciples, but to provide guidance for those who cannot comprehend the real situation when they approach yoga.

For those who have a need to meditate, there are many methods of Christian meditation. Christian meditation is diametrically opposed to yoga. It will not make gods of us, it will not free us from life and death, but will bring us to the God who through his resurrection saved us from the dilemma of which yoga is itself an expression.”










Photos: Fr. Simeon de la Jara


Father Simeon de la Jara from Peru:

On a righteous path from Peru to Mount Athos, Greece



When Miguel Angel de la Jara Higgingson was seven, his mother had a vision. She sensed that her son would some day leave her for a “far away place, like an island, there where people of solitude lived who pray all the time and rarely step out into the world”. Even she, however, could probably not have imagined just how far from his native Peru, both physically and spiritually, his life’s search would take him.

Now he is Father Simeon the hermit, an Orthodox Christian monk of Eastern Orthodox Church who lives on Mount Athos, a self-administrating, all-male monastic community on the Athos peninsula – the eastern most of three jutting peninsulas in the northern Greek prefecture of Halkidiki in Greece.

However, it’s not just his Peruvian origins that make Father Simeon such a well-known figure among visitors to Mount Athos; it’s also his radiant presence as an artist, poet and painter that makes him so sought after, especially by the young.

His journey began in 1968, when at the age of 18 he left Peru to discover the world. After travelling through Europe and Asia for over two years – during which time he was exposed to eastern philosophies and religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and yoga – he finally settled in Paris, where he lived for the next three years.

It was in Paris that he first met a GreekOrthodox monk and learned about Orthodoxy, a meeting that was to have a profound effect on him. For the next two and a half years he studied hagiography (icon painting) with Leonide Ouspensky, while his interest in Orthodoxy deepened.

He first visited Greece in 1972, where he accepted the Orthodox faith, before returning to stay in 1973, originally joining the monastery of Agios Georgios (St George) on the large Greek island of Evia. When, in 1974, the entire monastery relocated to Agios Grigorios (St Gregory) on Mount Athos, Simeon followed, living at the Agios Grigorios Monastery until 1987. He subsequently became a hermit, moving to the old hermit’s cell of Timios Stavros near the Stavronikita monastery, where he built a new dependency and formed a complex.

On first meeting Father Simeon, one is struck by his youthful passion and joy – qualities which, as he says, “one cannot hide”. A compassionate listener and gentle speaker, he responds to questions with spontaneity and rigour, without ever becoming dogmatic or distant. Behind his piercing eyes is an inquisitive mind, forever seeking ways to express the love and joy he wants to share with others.

After 24 years in Greece, Father Simeon declares a profound love and admiration for Greek culture and language, saying he prefers writing in Greek to even his native Spanish. To his extensive travels he owes a rich and varied experience, as well as a love of French Surrealism, tatami mats, Japanese food and Chinese art. And to his Peruvian family he owes his love of art.

According to Simeon, it is the need to tap into the inner joy in all things which has led him to art and prayer; that has been the predominant force in his life. Through poetry, paintings, photographs, prayers and lectures he has reached out and tried to touch people’s hearts beyond the borders of the Holy Mount.

He has several published works, including his 1985 lecture “Nifalios Methi” (Sober Drunkenness), the 1983 publication”The Holy Mountain Today” brought out by Alexandria Press in London andthe poetry collection “Simeon Mnema”, published in 1994. A new book of poetry, entitled “Me Imation Melan” (In Black Cloth), is due to be broughtout shortly by Agra Editions in Athens.

An artist in solitude as much as a solitary, a monk, in the midst of art, his poems and his paintings have both the freshness of the “here and now” and the depth of eternity, and are of a striking immediacy and poise. They make one wonder what the difference between the artist and the hermit is – or even if there is one at all.








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Joseph Magnus Frangipani, ALASKA, USA

After Baptism in the Eastern Orthodox Church


The Impossibility of Aloneness: When Christ Found Me in the Himalayas

by Joseph Magnus Frangipani 

I’m an Orthodox Christian living in Homer, Alaska and experienced Jesus Christ in the Himalayas, in India.

I listen to the heartbeat of rain outside…

Cold, Alaskan fog blowing in off the bay, emerald hills now that autumn is here and summer chased away into the mountains. But a milky white fog spreads over the bay like a silken ghost. I used to visit Trappist monasteries, back when I was Catholic, at the beginning of high school, and searching for a relationship of love. I read plenty of philosophy then to know that knowing isn’t enough, that having a realization in the mind is entirely different from experiencing a revelation of the heart.

I spent two birthdays in the Himalayas…

Traveling along gravel roads that drop deep into icy gulches where the Ganges river rages below not yet packed with the filth and mud and newspapers of villages, not yet carrying remainders of Indians in her current, I found Christ found me. It’s a difficult and strangely compelling atmosphere to confront oneself, – – India, – – sandwiched with black corpses, white snow, pagan fires and virulent animals.

I took a bus north from Delhi. It was crowded, tight and cramped, flies buzzed between my face and the windows smeared with brown slime. It’s so polluted in Delhi, so much coffee-colored smoke, so much steam that you really can’t see the sun. You saw it, a rising orange-reddish ball burning over the horizon fifteen minutes in the morning, but then fifteen minutes slouching back down again, an exhausted head over the mountains.

I grew up Catholic but turned to Buddhism when introduced to a self-hypnosis class at my Catholic high school, experimenting with meditation and ‘mindfulness.’ I experienced serious symptoms of manic depression then, partially because I’d consciously turned away from the Judeo-Christian God, and also because life at home was very, very difficult for me. I grew anxious and got into extremely self-destructive habits, and so Buddhism seemed a perfect door to address – or not address – my turning from God and family, and focusing my energy toward dissolving into a Void, a dissolving bubble on an endless and personless river, Tathāgatagarbha. The element that got me is to dissolve my desire, and abandon my selfhood, in order to avoid suffering. But desire doesn’t seem so bad, especially when it is for love, which requires more than one person, and thereby voids any notion of abandoning self, – – and to love, to truly love, is to give, which may require sacrifice, and suffering – –

So Tibetan Buddhism kept coming up, because the meditation helped calm my anxieties and depression, and because the culture proved highly engaging, what with all her colorful flags, her skulls, and metaphysical explanations of things, – – but what is left, when ‘I’ disappear, and there is no one else for whom a relationship of the heart can exist? Not to mention, what did the experiences of the Gospels, the Cloud of Witnesses, the Holy Church, amount to? I knew nothing of Orthodoxy when I reached into the closet of Buddhism, but in light of it, now, what does it all add up to?

Mindfulness worked as far as cleansing the window, the mind, is concerned, which is important, but then many of its doctrines, – and I explored countless doctrines, – really stop here. Clear sky. But what it did not do, and could not, really, is orient me toward the sun, and the warmth of the sun, and the sunlight – – all religions seem to contain some seed of truth, but fail in witnessing to the Triadic God…and all my destructive habits, and relationships, and every mantra, and yoga, all of which I’ve had my fill…this is how Christ brought me to Him.

Back to the story, I’m in Delhi, on a bus. And after an hour or two of sitting in that cramped, stuffy and urine-soured air you hear the front breaks release, the bus finally stretching her arthritic joints and creak slowly forward. She rolls, head first, toward the busy main road. For fifteen minutes we cough and pop down the road, away from my filthy, but greatly lovable refuge of Manju Ka Tilla, a sort of Tibetan refugee camp criss-crossed with telephone wire, wet and narrow alleyways packed with dogs and diapered babies, and polio. Cobblestone streets and bakeries, copper trinkets and arms, this is the first place on earth I met leprosy, and her sister polio. The beginning of my spiritual warfare.

I usually saw them together, these two, – polio and leprosy – crowding in around a barrel of fiery rags, in the crayon-black darkness hands like chewed-up bread, teeth pencil yellow and cracked. I see a boy attacked by a skinny, vicious-looking dog with long, wet fur and crazy eyes – it looks like a red and yellow fox, – – a tangle of fur and blood and whimper. The taxi cab drivers, waiting on their afternoon customers near the stinking, feathered dumpsters launch after the monster in a terrible raid of madness and darkness. They chase the thing down with bricks loosened from neighboring grocery store steps leaving the boy warm and wet with his own blood, a hound’s tooth broken off inside his leg.

Here is suffering, and personhood, and sacrifice…

He looks young but his face shows no signs of innocence. His dark eyes follow me as I run a few feet away to pick up a bottle of water, then return. We look at each other. His long, dangling arms and fingers started rubbing the area of skin that have broken open and gush a strange, purple fluid.

Wet, mossy feet and the bitter odor of trash hang in the air. Cows streaked with vomit pick through spoiled food and milk cartons nearby at the dumpsters. He waits for a doctor but one never arrives. I don’t know what else to do. The boy looks through me, limping into an alley and disappearing in the terrible darkness.

I will live here a total of five and a half months. I will have arrived here practicing Buddhism and Hinduism for eleven years, and leave Christian…

I thought maybe I’d join a Buddhist monastery, or be discovered by wise sage in the mountains, spend the rest of my life in the Himalayas experiencing exotic mystery and enlightenment. I read dozens of sutras by various Buddhas, had an underlined and well-worn copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and Upanishads, and was reading all the California guys, Bhagavan Das, Ram Das, Krishna Das, and even met most of them, all the 60s ‘hippy’ idols who dropped acid and flew to India to go ‘find the guru.’ I read Be Here Now and did the whole drug scene, but despite all the colorful statues and marijuana and tantra, no matter how ‘empty’ I became, there wasn’t enough and I sensed…how can I say this…something was wrong.

I worked as a wilderness guide for at-risk youth in the sage deserts of Idaho. Teaching primitive skills, meditation and mantra, and working with psychologists to develop methods of emotional and behavioral therapy – – I was chased by a wolf, I killed a rattlesnake. And while out there, – this is in the middle of my life before Christ, – – toward the end of it, actually, – – I began experiencing strange things – not only while traveling through India, but before that, and not only me, but my girlfriend. We saw, and everyone involved with this recipe of mantra, meditation, yoga, – and a lot of it sober, – – we saw shadows and demons, experienced trembling and ungodly anxiety and fear. So I knew something was strange, something was going on. It is not all opinion, all belief, for if I have freewill, and exist outside the body, – and I had plenty experiences where I knew I was more than my body, – – and this is one of the things that helped me dismiss and eventually leave the bag of eastern religions, – in addition to God’s grace, – – that if I am more than my body, and I have free will, and can choose to either accept or reject love, then others can too, and this brought up the issue of good versus evil, of right and wrong.

Was what I was doing, right? Who was I following? Are these things, these deities, just archetypes, and if not, if they are ‘real,’ are they ‘good?’ It like jumping into an ocean and realizing there are many different things floating around in there, harmless creatures, some of them beautiful, and some, in fact, that will attack you, that are poisonous, and the astral life, the spiritual life, is like that. Very quickly, once I got to India, I understood this. And was scared.

The boy with the watermelon disease, his head swollen on a piece of cloth outside my guest room door, a cloud of black flies wriggling over an empty ribcage and hollow eyes, a human Jack-O-lantern, his mother’s long brown arm rung with silver jewelry begging for rupees.

So why did I leave a supportive and beautiful girlfriend behind in Oregon to experience this? I was beginning to mend my relationship with my parents, gain more confidence, and had read Way of the Pilgrim a number of months before, but it was with all my California stuff, and I never saw any relation to that and Orthodoxy, never once asked, where is a church that deepens one’s relationship with the living, loving, Truth? Where truth is a Person, as I’d later read from Father Seraphim Rose?

I’d head up to the mouth of the Ganges River, to Gangotri, – – into a mountain. On my 28th birthday, I listened to the heartbeat of the wind on the cliffs, on the water, and experience not a realization of the mind, though that did happen, sure enough, but only once the heart was struck by a sort of cherubim’s sword in my heart, experiencing a revelation occurring in meeting the living God, Jesus Christ, and myself peeling away from itself.

What can I say?

Everything I’d learned, practiced, experienced for all of eleven years poured out from my head, in one ear and out the other, replaced by their approximate Christian terms, fulfilled, actually, and I knew reincarnation is impossible through the resurrection, because I am a self, a soul, and I knew karma is impossible because it operates independently of ‘God’ and there is Divine Intervention, I’ve witnessed it, and experienced it. In the cave, a joyous ache in my heart, and in the cave, no more aloneness, no more aloofness. In the Himalayas, and I mean immediately, like I was zapped, I really met Christ, and was dumb for a moment, and in Eternity I saw in my heart the Person of God as Christ, and I could never, ever be alone. Maybe I’d FEEL alone, sure, (doubtful) but I ought to remember, the impossibility of aloneness. Maybe that should be the title of this letter.

So what happened after? I picked up a Bible and read the thing in a guest house back in Dharamsala, over 12 hours away, and then I’d return to America, after the shaking bus trips and gargantuan ceremonies of burning bodies and yellow and black gods and goddesses, and and I’d fall into the lap of the Orthodox Church, in Eugene, and, I’m only skimming over it now, due to time constraints, and I’d visit St Anthony’s Monastery, in Arizona, and all the monasteries and churches in between, long enough to fill a book, and pray to St Herman who could, by his intercessions, bring me straight to Spruce Island, and to where, kneeling before his relics, find home. In Homer. There is more, but I’ll write later. So much has happened to my heart. Forgive me for rambling, and going on. May the Father of Lights enlighten us, and have mercy on us. Amen.

“It is one thing to believe in God, and another to know Him.” +St Siliouan

Editors Note: Joseph Magnus now lives in Port Townsend, Washington. He is a writer of children’s books and helps the Father Lazarus Moore Foundation.





Fr. Ephraim of Arizona


Photos from St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Arizona, USA


The Spiritual War – Father Efraim of Philotheou and Arizona


Facebook about Father Ephraim Philotheitis, Arizona, USA 



St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona


The Monasteries of Fr. Ephraim in America