Saturday, April 02, 2011

Orthograph #126 - Because I'm Special


Ruth said...

Well, yes. Sort of. But how far did "The Pilgim" travel, and he walked (!) to get the spiritual direction which matched the way he knew God was calling him. If he'd stopped at the second or third closest director we would not have that lovely book.

Ruth said...

"Pilgrim" typo

Steve Robinson said...

Hi Ruth, I found it interesting that Abbot Meletios (and other monks I know) have said in their experience "The Way of the Pilgrim" is not "particularly helpful" to modern converts in general and they do not recommend it as "spiritual reading" because it sets up an expectation (delusion) that his experience is somehow normative or "super spiritual" and to be emulated, sought after etc. It is kind of what St. Ignaty Brianchoninov says in "The Arena" about spiritual books and beginners: They have no clue how to apply what the read to themselves and end up deluded thinking they are more spiritual and advanced than they really are. YMMV.

Sophia in West Texas said...

This graph reminds me of why Christians are generally discouraged from living alone. You don't need a clairvoyant elder to help you see your sins and faults. Just ask the people you live with! :-)

Ruth said...

Well, for a long time I thought it would be prideful for me to quit being Anglican (church across the road) and become Orthodox (church in Wellington, three hours drive away), but I'm glad I did it. And then a monastery was established halfway so I only have to travel 1 1/2 hours. I think what most people struggle with is not feeling special. At least in our culture which still has that vestige of stiff upper lip in it, where you endure even spiritual blight and hardship and don't make a fuss. I guess there is a balance.

Alexander The Mediocre said...

While I do generally (99%) agree with the "Orthograph", I think there is nothing wrong in being "eclectic" in finding a suitable (not:clairvoyant) spiritual director. Not everyone is suited for the job. Every priest may be enough as a confessor but not everyone can be a true spiritual healer...

>It is kind of what St. Ignaty
>Brianchoninov says in "The Arena"
>about spiritual books and
>beginners: They have no clue how
> to apply what the read to
>themselves and end up deluded
>thinking they are more spiritual
>and advanced than they really are.

That's EXACTLY why a discerning (again,not:clairvoyant, not: an Orthodox Guru ) spiritual father is always needed. Not every priest or every monk is up to the task...Taking medicines without a doctor might be problematic, but not all doctors are created equal.


Prayer to Find a Spiritual Father: "O Lord, who desirest not the death of a sinner but that he should turn and live, Thou who didst come down to earth in order to restore life to those lying dead through sin and in order to make them worthy of seeing Thee the true light as far as that is possible to man, send me a man who knows Thee, so that in serving him and subjecting myself to him with all my strength, as to Thee, and in doing Thy will in his, I may please Thee the only true God, and so that even I, a sinner, may be worthy of Thy Kingdom".—St. Symeon the New Theologian (SC 129,186-188)


"A brother told me: Once, when my job was in a rural area, my wife had gone to a very strict spiritual father. When she had confessed a weakness of hers that she would have repeated, he berated her, he intimidated her and ever since that experience, it took her a very long time to decide to go to confession again.
"Do you see", the elderly Father said to him, "what excessive austerity can do? That's why I tell you, take care which spiritual fathers you go to for confession - both you and your wife as well as your children - and above all, be honest in whatever you say, because that way, God will forgive everything and you will move up, spiritually."

[Elder Porphyrios, «COLLECTED COUNSELS», Published by the Sacred Nunnery Retreat «The Transfiguration of the Saviour», 2002, page 337].

Alexander The Mediocre said...


>I guess there is a balance.

I think that's the key: Balance.

Any (spiritual) medicine can be a cure for one or a poison to another. That's why generalisations in spiritual life should be...generally avoided...

konstantina said...

Sometimes I think people should be careful to blog about things they don't understand.

Just because something seems strange in America doesn't mean that it isn't based in Orthodox traditions in Orthodox countries.

How about, just for this Great Lent, we criticize ourselves and leave behind our judgments on the faults and quirks (or in some cases, praiseworthy qualities that just don't 'jive' with our - most times uninformed - opinions).

Forgive me.

Alexander The Mediocre said...


I really haven't read anything in this blog that I have not encountered in Orthodox people in Greece or other Countries (easter or western...) . It still amazes me how Orthodox people living so far away can be so similar in their searches or problems...

Well, everything except the squid sausages and vegan feta that is... :-)

konstantina said...

Alexander the Mediocre,

I would generally agree with you except for this particular topic. In Greece things like diligently searching for a good spiritual director are considered praiseworthy. Hence why people who live more than nine hours away from the Holy Mountain still choose to have Athonites for spiritual fathers, even though there are sp.fathers all around Greece.

And many people are very appreciative of the fact that North Americans come here to study theology. Students come here because they know the caliber of Orthodox theological schools are better here than in America. Not going the distance means missing out on the benefits.

So, the problem I have with posts like this is they degrade those who genuinely search to be spiritually instructed. (Which really is praiseworthy).

As for vegan feta, I've never come across it. Though I wouldn't mind trying it :)

Alexander The Mediocre said...

>In Greece things like diligently
> searching for a good spiritual
>director are considered >praiseworthy.

Not always. There are people who go to great distances just because they think "they are special" and need special attention, while they do not.

>Hence why people who live more
>than nine hours away from the Holy
> Mountain still choose to have
>Athonites for spiritual fathers,
>even though there are sp.fathers
>all around Greece.

And *some* times this has a devastating effect.

Because they think that inside the Holy Mountain they will find "all-holy" people. Although there are more spiritual fathers to be found there, there are also many deluded people.

There is a homily by Fr. Nicon of the holy mountain (Nea Skiti) who talks of such people who play the role of the "Clairvoyant" Elder inside Holy Mountain.

He says that people go to the Holy mountain to find "Clairvoyant" Spiritual Fathers, searching far and wide and they end up in deluded monks, while all they have to do is search near them, near their Parish: (sorry, Greek only)

He says this is a *diseased* symptom of our age...which leads some monks to play the-false-role of the clairvoyant...For me, he says exactly what Steven says above.

A Good Spiritual Father(TM) is where you can find him. Either inside or outside the Holy Mountain or anywhere else.

Searching might be a "Good Thing"(TM) but "Searching too much" might not...

>So, the problem I have with posts
> like this is they degrade those
>who genuinely search to be
>spiritually instructed. (Which
>really is praiseworthy).

In my opinion posts like this, as with the homily I mentioned above, help us stop "romanticising" spiritual life.

Not everything that shines is Gold.

EVEN if you find a (truly!) Clairvoyant Elder it does not mean that he is better than someone who is not! Elder Porphyrios had those gifts from the holy spirit when he was young (about 20) but he didin't have any experience. So he was overzealous and "Sizzled" (his own words..) people who came to confess to hime by giving them very strict penances, that her read from the rudder. Elder Porfyrios says for himself at that age: I was a fanatic! And he was already clairvoyant. He already had the Holy Spirit within him. But he didin't have experience...I'll find the part and post it at somepoint..

>As for vegan feta, I've never come
> across it. Though I wouldn't mind
> trying it :)

Just ask the supermarkets when you go to Greece. "Nistisimi feta" (well it's more 'White Cheese' than Feta, really...) Really haven't tryied it? You don't know what you're missing :-)

konstantina said...

I understand where you're coming from. But my opinion remains the same: I believe it is more beneficial, both for ourselves and others, to avoid tearing people down.

Just because there can be danger in something doesn't mean there isn't equal or more benefit to be had.

Anyway, that's just my opinion.

Alexander The Mediocre said...

Thanks for exchanging opinions with me...hope you have a blessed Lent! (with or without 'Vegan Feta')

Jack said...

God Who arranges all things for our salvation has made more than adequate provision for making sure we each have the spiritual direction we need.

Steve Robinson said...

Konstantina and Alexander, Your conversation reflects the issue. In general the Orthographs are my own personal sins, issues and goofiness but because they aren't special they have all already been written about in other places. The "graphs" are just representations of what is contained in much longer writings on the subjects depicted. I do not claim to have any particular insight into anyone else's soul except my own and if anything I "graph" is contrary to the teachings of the Church regarding how screwed up we are sometimes even in our good motives then I will recant. As always (as with anyone who posts a "quote from the desert fathers" etc. on their blog or FB or twitter: If the shoe that fits me fits you, welcome to the club. If not, don't apply for membership. :)

Anonymous said...

@ Alexandre The Mediocre
Your words touched me, and I'd be interested to know more about the "youtube homily" dedicated to that subject. As you understand greek, may you kindly give other insights given by the Father on that topic ?

I fully agree with your comment. The main problem is that people (I used to play that game) usually consider they must get "exceptionnal spritual advices" as they can not be directed as the "common mortal". They consider themselves deserving a close relationship with "someone" who will pray for them, their only task being to grasp what is bestowed. That means God is not strong enough to drive them by everyday life....

When the "teacher" will ask them to give all their money, they 'll consider it's a token of holiness; if a beggar ask them one $ they consider him being a parasite...
How a true elder could give anything to soemone full of such craziness ?